One in five U.S. adults takes at least one psychiatric drug

November 18, 2011

About 20% of U.S. adults take at least one psychiatric drug, up by 22% between 2001 and 2010, according to data reported by pharmacy benefit manager Medco Health Solutions.

The data show an increase in the use of antipsychotic drugs across all age groups. They also show an increase in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs prescribed to adults. For example, between 2001 and 2010, use of ADHD drugs tripled among individuals ages 20 to 44 and doubled among women ages 45 to 65.

Meanwhile, antidepressant use in children peaked in 2004, but then in 2010 returned to around 2.5% in girls and 2% in boys, the same as in 2001. The decline followed a requirement by FDA in 2004 for black box warnings about potential serious side effects, such as suicidal thoughts.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some psychiatrists are concerned about the increased use of antipsychotics, despite more widespread awareness of potential side effects, including weight gain, high cholesterol, and diabetes (Wang, Journal, 11/16).

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