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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Trends in Antidepressant Use in Canada

Depression is a common health issue, so it is not surprising that a fairly large proportion (between 5 and 6%) of the Canadian population are taking antidepressants. However, not all depressive episodes require antidepressant treatment. Some such episodes resolve on their own and some can be treated by psychotherapy, so it is not surprising that a sizable proportion of those with depression do not take antidepressants. The frequency of use of antidepressants increased a lot in the 1990s, but this increase has slowed (at least in adults) in recent years. In a recent study, we found an interesting trend: that most people taking antidepressants do not report past-year episodes and that this is the category in which the frequency of use is increasing the most. This probably means that those with severe episodes or highly recurrent episodes are taking these medications over the longer term in order to prevent relapse. If this is true, it is a positive indication of appropriate treatment. Of course, it is also possible that some people may be taking these medications for reasons other than for depression (e.g. to prevent migraines or for chronic pain), which could also explain this trend.