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Antidepressant Use Rising as Psychotherapy Rates Fall
Date:12/6/2010

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Even as fewer Americans have sought psychotherapy for their depression, antidepressant prescription rates have continued to climb in recent years, a new survey reveals.

"This is an encouraging trend as it suggests that fewer depressed Americans are going without treatment," said study author Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City. "At the same time, however, the decline in psychotherapy raises the possibility that many depressed patients are not receiving optimal care."

"While progress is being made in increasing the availability of depression care, a mismatch is opening up between clinical evidence and practice," Olfson cautioned. "For many depressed adults and youth, a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants is the most effective approach. Yet, only about one-third of treated patients receive both treatments, and the proportion receiving both treatments is declining over time. Efforts should be made to increase the availability of psychotherapy for depression."

Olfson and his colleagues report the findings in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

The authors noted that previous research indicated that depression treatment rose significantly between 1987 and 1997, from less than 1 percent to nearly 2.5 percent. Antidepressant use among depressed patients rose similarly, from just over 37 percent to more than 74 percent. At the same time, however, the percentage of patients undergoing psychotherapy dropped, from about 71 percent to 60 percent.

Newer medication options (including the introduction of serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs), streamlined treatment guidelines, and improved screening tools accounted for the bump in overall treatment.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data fro
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