Feelings of unhappiness, decreased energy, insomnia and irritability are all symptoms of depression. And antidepressants can help relieve depression.
But for some people, these drugs may also have dangerous or troubling side effects -- drowsiness, feelings of panic, nervousness, sexual problems, thoughts of suicide or weight gain -- and should be taken only by people who really need them. So it's alarming that a new study shows antidepressant use has nearly doubled in the United States since the mid-1990s.
In the study, published in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers analyzed data from a national survey of antidepressant use conducted in 1996 and again in 2005. The survey included people age 6 and older.
Between 1996 and 2005, the rate of those reporting that they had used antidepressants in the past year jumped from 5.8 percent to 10.1 percent. This translates to an increase from about 13.3 million people to 27 million. The change was more dramatic among whites than African Americans or Hispanics.
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