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More antidepressant users without documented disorder

More people without any documented psychiatric condition are taking antidepressants and getting them prescribed by doctors who aren’t psychiatrists, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The article mentions a study finding that nearly three-quarters of antidepressants in the U.S. were prescribed by non-psychiatrists in 2007, up from 60% a decade earlier. The study drew on the analysis of a national sample of 233,144 doctor office visits, the latest data available. The percentage of patients prescribed antidepressants without being diagnosed with a mental illness more than doubled in that period to 6.4% in 2007 from 2.5% in 1996.

Study author Mark Olfson said the findings raise concerns about whether the medicines are effective for the patients receiving them, since previous research has shown that antidepressants are most effective for people with severe symptoms.

G. Caleb Alexander, a professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, is quoted as saying: “I think many physicians regard these drugs as relatively safe and are willing to try them in settings where there is limited effectiveness.”

But antidepressants are not necessarily harmless. Numerous studies have linked the use of antidepressants classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors by pregnant women with birth defects in their babies, including potentially dangerous heart and lung malformations.

SSRI antidepressants include Prozac and Zoloft.

According to the Wall Street Journal, antidepressants were the second-most widely prescribed class of medicine in the U.S. in 2010, after cholesterol-lowering statins. And their use is increasing. Some 253 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written in 2010, compared with 231 million in 2006.

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with an SSRI lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries.

See more about the study here: