Dramatic Rise In Psychiatric Drug Abuse Over The Last Decade

Medco Health Solutions Inc., a pharmacy benefit manager, just released a report finding that psychiatric drug abuse in the USA has risen starkly in the past decade. The Wall Street Journal did a story on this report, Psychiatric Drug Use Spreading. The most startling figure to come out of this report is the fact that fully 20 %, or 1 in every 5 Americans, are on a psychiatric drug at this point in time. That’s a lot of ‘mental illness’, that’s a lot of drug abuse!

Among the most striking findings was a big increase in the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs across all ages, as well as growth in adult use of drugs for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder—a condition typically diagnosed in childhood. Use of ADHD drugs such as Concerta and Vyvanse tripled among those aged 20 to 44 between 2001 and 2010, and it doubled over that time among women in the 45-to-65 group, according to the report.

A big rise then was found in the use of harmful neuroleptic drugs. Neuroleptic drugs are drugs that change metabolism and they are drugs that cause neurological problems; neuroleptic drugs are known to shorten life spans. Also, it’s not just children and adolescents taking the lion’s share of the ADHD drugs any more, now it’s going to adults. Although there aren’t a lot of seniors on speed, just let these adults age, and see where that lands us.

Overall use of psychiatric drugs grew 21 % between the years 2001 and 2010 according to the report. Despite the increase, declines, probably due to increasing awareness of the dangers, were reported in anti-depressant drug use in children, and in anti-anxiety drug use on the elderly.

One thing this article doesn’t go into is whether this decline in the use of anti-anxiety drugs on the elderly has meant a corresponding rise in the use of neuroleptic drugs on them. Drugs that are, as pointed out previously, known to shorten life spans.

Drug sales speak for themselves with the sale of neuroleptic drugs raking in the most profits of the bunch.

Psychiatric medications are among the most widely prescribed and biggest-selling class of drugs in the U.S. In 2010, Americans spent $16.1 billion on antipsychotics to treat depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, $11.6 billion on antidepressants and $7.2 billion on treatment for ADHD, according to IMS Health, which tracks prescription-drug sales.

When people speak of gains in the mental health treatment, I can only see using these statistics to argue that, no, we haven’t made progress, quite the reverse. The mental health system is getting worse.

Shire PLC, maker of Vyvanse and Adderall, pointed to an increased recognition of ADHD as a lifelong disorder as a main factor for growth in treatment in adults, as well as marketing and awareness campaigns have led to the awareness that this is a real entity, said Jeff Jonas, head of Shire research and development. Johnson & Johnson, maker of ADHD drug Concerta, declined to comment.

Drug company marketing campaigns have helped make adult ADHD a “real” entity. Of course, they’re giving new meaning to the word “real” when they make these claims. In a similar fashion, utilizing a similar sleight, Monopoly boardgame play money could be said to be “real” money, too.

One quick way to lower the psychiatric drug abuse increase rate, and with it the ‘mental illness’ increase rate, would be to outlaw the practice of direct to consumer adverterising. Direct to consumer advertising is legal only in the USA and New Zealand now, and certainly it has had more than a little to do with the extent of this epidemic in psychiatric disability that we are weathering at the current time.