Many people taking antidepressants discover they cannot quit

Long-term use of antidepressants is increasing in the United States, a new analysis of federal data by the <i>New York Times</i> shows. Almost 25 million adults have been taking antidepressants for at least 2 years, a 60% increase since 2010.

Long-term use of antidepressants is increasing in the United States, a new analysis of federal data by the <i>New York Times</i> shows. Almost 25 million adults have been taking antidepressants for at least 2 years, a 60% increase since 2010. Moreover, approximately 15.5 million individuals have been taking the drugs for at least 5 years, nearly doubling the rate since 2010. While the drugs have helped millions of people with depression and anxiety, and many people can stop taking them without significant issues, some individuals who try to wean themselves off cannot due to harsh withdrawal symptoms they say they were not warned of. Initially, the drugs were cleared for short-term use; but even today, with millions of long-term users, there is little data about their effects on individuals who take them for years. According to the <i>Times</i> analysis of data collected since 1999 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than 34.4 million adults took antidepressants in 2013&#8211;2014, up from 13.4 million in 1999&#8211;2000. The report found that individuals older than age 45 years, women, and whites are more likely to take antidepressants than younger adults, men, and minorities; however, usage among older adults across the demographic spectrum is rising. "What you see is the number of long-term users just piling up year after year," said Mark Olfson, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who assisted the <i>Times</i> with the analysis. And yet, it is not clear that everyone who is taking an open-ended prescription should stop. Most physicians agree that a subset of users may benefit from a lifetime prescription, though they disagree on the size of that group. Peter Kramer, MD, a psychiatrist and author of several books about antidepressants, noted: "There is a cultural question here, which is how much depression should people have to live with when we have these treatments that give so many a better quality of life. I don't think that's a question that should be decided in advance."