Antidepressants Are over Prescribed

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Antidepressants are overprescribed

Mitrea (2007) defines antidepressants as an agent or a drug that is most commonly used to prevent or treat depression. However, in today’s society it could be said that antidepressants are being over prescribed and are being used to treat a vast range of other conditions, as well as clinical depression. When the first antidepressant was developed, manufacturers were reluctant to put it on the market due to the extremely low number of people suffering from depression. Now, antidepressant drugs have a very dominant place in the drug market, with studies showing that they are now one of the most widely prescribed categories of drugs (Mark 2010). There could be a number of reasons for this increase in antidepressant prescriptions; more people in today’s society could be suffering from depression, or the drugs could indeed be being over prescribed by doctors. This essay will aim to critically discuss whether antidepressants are being over prescribed or perhaps under prescribed, and if the diagnosis for depression needs to be reviewed in order to prescribe antidepressants more appropriately.

Various studies have been carried out that aim to show that the proportion of antidepressants being prescribed without a psychiatric diagnosis is growing, concluding that antidepressant drugs are being overprescribed. Research by Mojtabai & Olfson (2011) found that the increase over the years has come from prescriptions written by non-psychiatrist providers, for patients who do not have a psychiatric or mental health diagnosis. Antidepressants are not being prescribed solely for depression; they are also used to treat chronic pain, anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and even eating disorders (Parker 2005). The symptoms for depression are a depressed mood, taking less pleasure in life, lack of energy, changes in appetite, restless habits, feeling worthless and guilty, and suicidal thoughts (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV-TR], 2000), but even with these parameters, it can still be difficult to distinguish severe depression from natural periods of feeling “down.” Mojtabai & Olfson (2011) reviewed a national sample of office based physician visits over a one week period. They compared visits that involved the prescription of antidepressants with no psychiatric diagnosis with visits that involved the prescription of antidepressants with a psychiatric diagnosis. The findings showed that in the general medicine practice, the use of antidepressants was more dominant among people with mental health conditions that were considered less severe and that were poorly defined (John Hopkins University Blomberg School of Public Health 2011). To the extent that antidepressants are being prescribed for uses not supported by clinical evidence, it may be beneficial to improve provider’s prescribing practices, review drug formularies, or pursue interventions that will increase and encourage communication between primary carers and mental health specialists.

The rising number of antidepressant prescriptions raises questions not only about over prescription but also about misdiagnoses. It could be fair to say that doctors are too quick to hand out prescriptions for any emotional problem. The rise in prescriptions could be down to patients being diagnosed with depression when they are in fact suffering from different health issues. Researchers have been investigating whether people who have been told they are suffering from depression actually have undiagnosed hypothyroidism (Garber 2006). Hypothyroidism is a disease in which the thyroid gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone (Andrews 2010). The symptoms of this disease can mimic the symptoms of depression, and it could be possible that the growth in antidepressant prescribing is going to the community of undiagnosed thyroid patients. It is fair to ask why doctors tend to hand out a prescription for an...
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