Around 25 percent of women in America are on medications for mental illness, according to data from a Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.
Thomas Moore, a senior scientist at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, and Dr. Donald Mattison, the chief medical officer at the Canadian consulting company Risk Sciences International, claim that double the amount of women are on psychiatric drugs than men.
Live Science reports: Psychiatric drug use differed among adults of different ages, sex and race, the researchers found. For example, nearly 21 percent of white adults reported taking a psychiatric drug, compared with less than 9 percent of Hispanic adults, according to the report.
Older adults also reported a higher rate of psychiatric drug use. One-quarter of adults ages 60 to 85 reported taking at least one of these drugs, compared with less than 10 percent of adults ages 18 to 39, the researchers found.
In addition, nearly twice as many women as men reported taking psychiatric drugs: 21 percent compared with 12 percent, according to the report.
Two antidepressants topped the list for the most commonly used psychiatric drugs: sertraline hydrochloride, which goes by the brand name Zoloft, and citalopram hydrobromide, or Celexa.
Alprazolam, or Xanax, was the most common drug from the sedative, hypnotic and anti-anxiety category, the study said. This medication was the third most common psychiatric drug overall, following Zoloft and Celexa, according to the report.
Other leading drugs included Ambien, which is a hypnotic sleeping pill, and the antidepressants Prozac and Desyrel, the report said.
The researchers noted that because the survey data included information on only a single year, it was difficult to determine how long people had been prescribed different psychiatric drugs. However, more than eight in 10 adults who were taking psychiatric drugs reported long-term use, the researchers wrote.
For antidepressants, there is limited information available about how long an individual should stay on the drug, Moore and Mattison wrote. For certain drugs in the sedative, hypnotic and anxiolytic category, however, people can become dependent, the researchers noted.
To improve the safety of psychiatric drugs, Moore and Mattison suggested increasing the emphasis on prescribing these medications at the lowest effective dose and continually re-assessing the need to keep individuals on the drugs.