Antidepressants: Usage trends

Last modified: Thursday, 25. December 2008 - 5:50 am


An increasing demand for antidepressants is resulting from increased media coverage on television and in magazines. Also, antidepressants are frequently prescribed by physicians for patients they diagnose as having difficulty handling some personal problem or crisis. The 135 million prescriptions sold in 1999 is an indication of the popularity of these drugs, especially Prozac. Awareness of the availability of the drugs has also resulted in large numbers of people seeking the drugs at times of tragedy and crisis (as evidenced by the increased demand after the September 11, 2001 attack).

In addition to the demand for antidepressants as discussed above, their use has increased as their effectiveness and relative safety in the treatment of depression and other problems have been shown.

Some people will refuse antidepressants when their doctors offer to prescribe them, because they fear that taking the drug is an admission of a serious disease or problem. The very nature of depression may also leave the patient without hope of relief and discourage them from seeking help or accepting the antidepressants.

Falsely believing that a herb is safer than a prescribed drug, many people either take St. John’s wort in place of, or in addition to, their prescription antidepressants. These are dangerous practices because of the serious side effects of the combinations and the serious consequences that may result when someone stops taking their antidepressant without the guidance of a physician.

Scope and severity

With an addiction, larger doses of the drug must be consumed to achieve the original high or “buzz.” This build-up of tolerance does not occur with antidepressants. In those cases where an increase in drug dose is required, usually it is because the illness is no longer responding to the original dose. Another criteria of addiction not met by antidepressants is that they do not cause an artificial high but only help those depressed to reach a normal level of functioning.

Some patients may have to take the drug long-term to control their illness, and in some cases the illness will return after the medication is discontinued. However, the antidepressants have not been found to be addicting themselves. Actually, they may be useful in the treatment of patients undergoing treatment of addiction who are also depressed. Research shows that these patients may need specific antidepressants considering their state of addiction and depression.

The antidepressant therapy should not be stopped abruptly, but tapered off. The symptoms some may experience when stopping abruptly is not withdrawal as witnessed with addictions, but just the need of the body to adjust without the effect of the antidepressants on the neurotransmitters of the brain.

The inability of the antidepressants to make healthy people “high” prevents an illegal market for these drugs from developing.

Age, ethnic, and gender trends

Women are more prone to depression than men. They also differ in their reaction to SSRI and tetracycline antidepressants. It is interesting to note that women less than 44 years of age respond more effectively to the SSRIs than do women older than 44.

All age groups from children to the elderly that suffer from depression respond well to the antidepressants. Also, those elderly individuals with some loss of cognitive ability have shown some improvement in their skills, although the antidepressants do not return them to their former intellectual ability.


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