Among 242 million adults in the United States, 16.7 percent reported having filled at least one prescription for a psychiatric drug in 2013. This data suggests that the percentage has increased since 2011, when 11.5 percent of the population had taken at least one prescription drug.
According to a research letter published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, there are issues surrounding the safe use of psychiatric drugs, such as prescriptions with limited information about the proper treatment duration. These lead to concerns on substance abuse and whether patients are getting appropriate mental health treatment.
White People, Twice More Likely To Use Prescription Drugs
According to the research, white people, women and older people reported using more prescription drugs than other social categories. Disparities were reported between different ethnic and racial categories as well.
Roughly 21 percent of white adults in the United States reported having used psychiatric drugs, as opposed to 9.7 percent black adult people and 8.7 Hispanic adults. The Asian community is the one to have reported using the smallest quantities of prescription drugs, with a drug exposure rate of 4.8 percent.
The research did not find an explanation for the reason why white people are much more prone to use prescription drugs, and further investigations should analyze the underlying causes of these statistics.
Possibly Incomplete Data Raises Concerns
The authors of the research letter employed data that is publicly available from the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which indexed 357,432 prescription records from 37,421 adults between the ages 18 to 85.
As part of the research, the two authors analyzed three types of drug categories, which represented the most interest for the purposes of the study: antidepressants on one side, anxiolytics, sedatives and hypnotics on the other side, and antipsychotics.
According to the research letter, 12 percent of the adults had taken antidepressants, 8.3 percent had used sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics, and 1.6 percent took antipsychotics.
"From a drug safety perspective, I am concerned that so many of these drugs have withdrawal effects and that some of the overwhelming long-term use may reflect drug dependence," noted study coauthor Thomas Moore.
In addition to this concern, the authors also signaled the fact that the data they analyzed could be incomplete because of the fact that the usage was self-reported. This type of survey leaves room for doubt, as people may either be reluctant to report having used prescription drugs, or they may have forgotten in the span of a year.
"Moreover, use may have been underestimated because prescriptions were self-reported, and our estimates of long-term use were limited to a single survey year," the authors noted in their research.