Antidepressant use soars, study says: Is depression overdiagnosed?

You might say the United States is a nation of pill poppers. Many adults take at least one prescription drug, but it's not uncommon for older people to be on five or more medications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even with insurance, drugs can be pricey. Without insurance, the cost may feel so exorbitant you may be tempted to skip or skimp on medication. Don't. There are ways to rein in the cost of prescription drugs, say our friends at Health.com, and skipping medication can be disastrous and ultimately more costly than the drugs themselves. More from Health.com: 11 ways to save money on healthy food istockphoto

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(CBS) Antidepressant use is skyrocketing. A new CDC report shows that over a 10-year period the use of the pills has risen a staggering 400 percent.

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The report - based on surveys and screenings of 12,000 Americans from 2005 to 2008 shows that 11 percent of Americans aged 12 and over are taking an antidepressant.

Eleven percent of the population taking an antidepressant? That sounds like a big number, but the authors of the report said that many people who could benefit from antidepressants aren't taking them. Only a third of people with symptoms of severe depression take antidepressants, they said.

The report also found that 8 percent of Americans without any depressive symptoms take the drugs, but the authors said that could include people who take the drugs for anxiety as well as once-depressed people who continue to take the drugs after their symptoms have lifted.

Other findings from the report provide a clearer picture of which Americans are taking antidepressants. Females are more than 2.5 times as likely to take the drugs as males, with nearly a quarter of all women aged 40-59 taking antidepressants. Non-Hispanic white persons are 10 percent more likely than non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican-Americans to take the drugs, the report showed.

The report also provided insight into how long people are taking antidepressants. More than 60 percent of Americans have taken their antidepressants for at least two years, while 14 percent have taken the medication for 10 years or more.

But people who are popping pills aren't necessarily getting them from a psychiatrist, or getting additional therapy that some experts recommend along with antidepressants.

The report showed that less than one-third of Americans taking antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year. People taking two antidepressants fared slightly better with their follow-ups, with less than one-half seeing a mental health doctor within a year.

Dr. Norman Sussman, a psychiatrist at New York University, told the Washington Post that this finding might be representative of more people going to primary care doctors for their treatment, which is concerning. "The fact that non-psychiatrists are not as well-informed about some of the risks and limitations of these drugs is of concern," he said.

Other experts disagree, and think the primary care physician is a necessary cog in fighting depression.

"The reality is that there are not enough mental health care providers around to treat all who need it," Dr. Gary Small, a psychiatrist and director of the UCLA Center on Aging, told ABC News. "Part of what we do as psychiatrists is teach doctor's how to diagnose and treat depression so that a lot of depression can be handled in primary care."

The full report is here.


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