“Are these many women depressed?” asks Dr. Oz in today’s show. After finding out about the disturbing statistics that 1 in 5 women are turning to anti-depressants for help, Dr. Oz sounded the alarm and investigates if this phenomenon is valid. Use of anti-depressants in the U.S. has sky-rocketed to 400% over the last two decades. Anti-depressants are the third most common prescription drugs used by Americans today, and women are twice more likely to take them than men. The issue at hand is to know whether depression level is really high, or are American mothers being over prescribed. With more women now than before who are taking the drug called “mother’s little helper”, is it really helping?
Carrey, a single mother who’s a guest in the show, was prescribed with anti-depressants. And, in her case, it was not really necessarily depression. She explains that the drug helps her get through the day. Another mother, Kelly, explains that when she was under anti-depressant medication, she ended up feeling empty and withdrawn. The drug not only took away depression, it also took away everything: the high and the excitement in her life. It put her in an even keel where there’s always a sense of dullness. But now that she’s off the medicines, she laughs more and she cries more. She’s more herself than when she was on it. Her children are getting to know her as she is, not the medicated person that she was. Both Kelly and Carrey did not see a psychiatrist before they were given prescriptions.
Why Antidepressants are overprescibed?
Dr. Sue Varna, a Psychiatrist, is Dr.Oz’s invited guest to specifically talk about this serious concern of over-prescription. She explains that, “Half of the patients who are prescribed anti-depressants don’t have mental health issues. The actual incident of depression is 1 in 10. So, 50% of patients who are prescribed anti-depressants by their family physicians don’t even have a mental health diagnosis…they did not go through mental health evaluation. In no field of medicine is this acceptable without proper and thorough health evaluation or any kind of evaluation to be put on medication”. Dr. Varna adds that medication is only one in a whole tool set. There are many things that people can do to cope with depression, instead of using medication – especially for those milder to moderate cases. Very frequently, family doctors have doorknob discussions about their patients’ health problems. Because these doctors are swamped with patients and each with their health issues, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, diet, diabetes, etc., they spend only 2 to 3 minutes discussing about mental health concerns. And after that doorknob discussion, they easily prescribe anti-depressants.
In her field of practice, Dr. Varna says that psychiatrists would normally spend 90 minutes talking to ONE patient to get the whole picture before they can appropriately prescribe any anti-depressant drugs or any medication. So, her question to mothers who are on this medication is, “How much time are you getting from your family doctor for an appointment to specifically discuss mental health issues? …So we’re missing a whole number of diagnosis. In fact it might not be depression at all, and yet you’re getting a prescription without being offered other legitimate options to be given medication”.
In this portion, Dr. Oz explains that he is not against anti-depressants across the board, but the reason that he’s very concerned is that from 1994, the medical unit saw a 400% increase in the use of this drug. There are 500 million prescriptions written per year, and of this 59% are written by family doctors, 23% by psychiatrists and 18% by other special fields. Click Here to Learn about Antidepressants Risks here.
Why you should consider adding other therapies to medication if you’re depressed?
Dr. Varna says that as a doctor, she looks at the differential diagnosis when someone comes in with a variety of symptoms. The patient may be masking another problem, so she is careful to identify how many of these things actually represent depression. So, it is imperative to get people through proper mental health evaluation. And when there’s an underlying problem that’s wrecking your health, we deal with it, and then deal with the depression as well.
At this point, Dr. Varna answers the questions tweeted by viewers through Dr. Oz’s social media communities.
• How long should you take anti-depressants?
Answer: “Typically, anti-depressants should be taken from 6 to 12 months, but this doesn’t mean you take the prescription and run, then come back one year later for your next physical… When I see my patients, I see them on a frequent basis in the beginning until they are stable…”
• Why do anti-depressants lose effectiveness over time?
Answer: “It is called ‘poop-out’ syndrome where it used to work and it doesn’t anymore. Also, in addition to medication, there are other therapies that you need to add on because medication will lose its effectiveness over time, so you need to talk to your doctor about the dose… Does it need to be increased, do you need to add, or switch? But again, you have this conversation with a mental health professional.”
After considering all the danger of over prescription, there is also a social stigma to Moms who are on anti-depressant medications. They are judged on a daily basis and people think they are weak and cannot handle problems. People also think they are crazy. But Dr. Varna is offering other options. She wants to empower women that in many of these cases, especially mild to moderate cases of depression, women can do many things to help themselves to cope. Exercise, social support, sleep and talk therapy can equally be more effective than medication for mild to moderate cases. Also, taking EPA fish oil was found to be a better first option than going straight onto pills.
Her advice for moderate to severe cases is that you see a mental health provider. And if you can’t for any reason, you should ask for a longer appointment with your family physician where you can spend the entire appointment talking specifically about your depression. Her concern really is, why aren’t doctors not dedicating enough time to this when mental health is equally, if not more important than physical health.
“Mother’s little helper” may not help at all when its use is inappropriate or unnecessary. Again, medication is not the “cure-all” remedy for your health problems. Other than prescription drugs, there are many more available tools and resources, and healthier options to regain your health. Spend time talking to your doctor, and consider talking to your communities as well.