More Americans are turning to anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications as the coronavirus pandemic upends everyday life for many, a new study found.

Initially reported in CNN, the analysis conducted by Express Scripts saw a 21 percent increase in the number of prescriptions for antidepressant, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications between February 16 and March 15. 

The study noted that this figure peaked during the end of the March 15 week, when the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the U.S. declared a national emergency.

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Specifically, anti-anxiety prescriptions rose by 34.1 percent, antidepressant prescriptions jumped by 18.6 percent and anti-insomnia prescription drugs saw a 14.8 percent. 

The report notes that Americans are becoming “increasingly anxious” as the pandemic continues, and underscores the impact the coronavirus is having on mental health.


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When divided by the sex of prescription users, the study also found that the increased use of anti-anxiety medication in particular was more prevalent among women than men. A 39.6 percent increase in anti-anxiety medications were prescribed to women, compared to the 22.7 percent increase in anti-anxiety prescriptions given to men. 

While the recent increased use of medications to treat anxiety, depression and sleep disorders is sudden, it is encouraging to see our members recognizing the need for help and seeking support from their physician,” the authors of the report explained. “What’s crucial now is ensuring Americans who are experiencing symptoms of these mental health conditions have support and access to their physicians, therapists and educational resources, including digital tools and virtual care and counseling to help them cope during this time.”

This new data corroborates other reports that note a surge in telehealth services during mandated self-isolation, notably as many seek physicians and therapists remotely to grapple with both physical and mental health during the pandemic. 

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Published on Apr 16, 2020