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Antidepressant Medication: Millions Prescribed Have No Psychiatric Diagnosis

Posted Feb 08 2011 11:07am

Are you taking antidepressants for something like sleep problems or a sour mood?

Well according to a recent study in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, you may not be alone.

Researchers found that more than a quarter of Americans currently taking antidepressants haven't actually been diagnosed with the conditions that traditionally qualified one for a prescription, like depression or anxiety disorders.

Antidepressant medication may be prescribed by both psychiatrists and general practitioners.

The potential issue with all of this, Reuters Health reports, is that it means thousands of patients are being exposed to possible side effects, sans any proven health benefits. And where antidepressants are concerned, side effects do exist.

According to the Mayo Clinic, antidepressants can cause anything from nervousness, headache and dry mouth to insomnia, dizziness and erectile disfunction.

The prescription of antidepressants has long been a hot-button issue, with some arguing that while popular, the drugs are not always helpful. Others believe that they are absolutely essential to treating depression and have called for the continued development of new, more effective drugs.

While the new study raises concerns about the antidepressant treatment in the U.S., experts speaking to Reuters Health cautioned against rushing to judgement.

"As far as overprescribing, I don't think you can say that it is occurring as a blanket statement," Jeffrey S. Harman, an expert in health services at the University of Florida in Gainesville, told Reuters.

"There are undoubtedly many people being prescribed antidepressants that may not be effective for them, but there are also millions of Americans suffering from depression who are not being prescribed antidepressants or are being prescribed them at a suboptimal dose."

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