Antidepressants Increasingly Prescribed without Psychiatric Diagnosis

Antidepressants are increasingly being prescribed by nonpsychiatrists without an accompanying psychiatric diagnosis, a new study finds.

Antidepressants are now the third most commonly prescribed class of medications in the US, and a new study finds that much of the growth in the drugs’ use is due to the increase in prescriptions by nonpsychiatrists without a psychiatric diagnosis.

The study, which appears in the August issue of the journal Health Affairs, examined data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys on physician visits by patients 18 and older. According to the study authors’ analysis, the proportion of doctors’ visits at which antidepressants were prescribed but not accompanied by a psychiatric diagnosis rose from 59.5% in 1996 to 72.7% in 2007.

The authors note that the numbers do not necessarily mean that antidepressants are being used inappropriately, but they do raise questions as to whether the drugs are being prescribed in situations where they are not warranted. They also suggest that increased communication between primary care providers and mental health specialists could help ensure that antidepressants are being used appropriately.


Proportion Of Antidepressants Prescribed Without A Psychiatric Diagnosis Is Growing (abstract) [Health Affairs]