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One in 6 US adults reports taking psychiatric drugs

Eli Lilly & Co. is one of the top makers of psychiatric drugs.BLOOMBERG NEWS/FILE

NEW YORK — About 1 in 6 US adults reported taking at least one psychiatric drug, usually an antidepressant or an antianxiety medication, and most had been doing so for a year or more, according to a new analysis.

The report is based on 2013 government survey data on some 242 million adults and provides the most fine-grained snapshot of prescription drug use for psychological and sleep problems to date.

“I follow this area, so I knew the numbers would be high,” said Thomas J. Moore, a researcher at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit in Alexandria, Va., and the lead author of the analysis, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. “But in some populations, the rates are extraordinary.”


Moore and his coauthor, Donald R. Mattison of Risk Sciences International in Ottawa, reviewed surveys and insurance data compiled by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. They found that 1 in 5 women had reported filling at least one prescription that year and that whites were about twice as likely to have done so than blacks or Hispanics.

Nearly 85 percent of those who had gotten at least one drug had filled multiple prescriptions for that drug over the course of the year studied, which the authors considered long-term use. The most commonly used type of drug was an antidepressant, followed by an antianxiety or sleeping pill.