The Wall Street Journal, by Andrea Petersen: Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications and sleep aids have risen during the pandemic, prompting doctors to warn about the possibility of long-term addiction and abuse of the drugs.
“Many physicians have a low threshold for prescribing them. It’s very problematic,” says Bruce J. Schwartz, deputy chair and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. “Many people do develop a dependency on these medications.”
Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications, such as Klonopin and Ativan, rose 10.2% in the U.S. to 9.7 million in March 2020 from 8.8 million in March 2019, according to the latest data from health-research firm IQVIA. Prescriptions for antidepressants, including Prozac and Lexapro, rose 9.2% to 29.7 million from 27.2 million in the same period. The information doesn’t include data on whether dosages have increased along with prescriptions.
Some companies have seen more dramatic increases. Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager owned by Cigna, says prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications rose 34.1% between mid-February and mid-March, while prescriptions for antidepressants and sleep medications increased 18.6% and 14.8%, respectively. Ginger, which supplies video- and chat-based mental health services to companies, says its psychiatrists wrote 86% more prescriptions for psychotropic drugs, primarily antidepressants, in March and April 2020 compared with January and February.
Health concerns, social isolation and the stress of job losses are taking a toll on people’s well-being. More than one-third of Americans say the pandemic is having a “serious impact” on their mental health, according to a survey released March 25 by the American Psychiatric Association. Among parents with children under 18, 46% rated their average stress level related to the pandemic as 8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale; according to a survey the American Psychological Association released May 21. The nation’s top mental-health official recently warned that the suffering could deepen if there were a second coronavirus lockdown.
“This kind of chronic stress…, for all those people who have never had anxiety before, … sort of overwhelms them,” says Charles B. Nemeroff, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin and president-elect of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “If you’ve lost your job, if you’re worried if you’ll have enough food for your kids, that will keep you up at night.” And for those with a history of anxiety and depression, stress can raise the risk of a relapse.
Many people are being driven by fear during this time in world’s history. More than ever, they need the message of peace that can only be found in Jesus; it is a peace that rises above circumstances, enabling God’s people to face whatever challenges may be ahead of them.
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” Luke 21:25, 26 (emphasis added).