As the COVID-19 epidemic continues, more research is being uncovered highlighting the trends related to 24-hour quarantines. One recent one, which actually isn’t all that surprising, concerns an uptick in antidepressant usage throughout the U.S. The Philadelphia Inquirer published some of the latest stats; which showed a sharp increase in medications meant to treat depression and anxiety. This can be alarming, as addictions potentially take hold and people over medicate to ease the stress of the current situation.
The data comes courtesy of Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit management program which measures prescription counts across the country. Their data showed that antidepressant orders went up by nearly 20 percent since February (which was right before the U.S. COVID outbreak). Anti-anxiety medications increased by 34 percent during the same timeframe. And of all the orders filled during that time, more than three quarters were new prescriptions.
Michael Leibowitz, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, spoke with The Inquirer about this disturbing trend.
“We’re using antidepressants more and more to treat both anxiety and depression,” Liebowitz explained. “I think the recent spike in anti-anxiety medications is likely due to the fact that traditional anxiety medications have the advantage of being quick-acting, unlike antidepressants, which can take six to 10 weeks to begin working.”
People obviously need to calm down and they need to do it quick. Quarantine life is new and scary for many citizens, but it could also be a gateway into addiction. As we’ve reported before, alcohol sales are way up since the coronavirus started and it is not surprising to think that people could quickly get hooked on anti-anxiety meds as well.
Unfortunately, many people look to drugs, prescriptions and alcohol as a way to escape from difficult situations. Philadelphia-based psychologist Rosen Spector also spoke with The Inquirer. She claimed that her virtual practice has never been busier and many clients are struggling with addictive temptations.
“Clearly people are taking more substances to control their anxiety,” she said. “We know that alcohol usage is up, marijuana usage is up. But I’m trying to tell patients to try a variety of other things to see if they can get their anxiety in control before taking a pill for it.”
While we are not against medications to control depression and anxiety, we do want people to be aware that they too can be addictive. So please, if the need is there, take everything in moderation and make sure to reach out if help is needed.