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Xanax the Number One Prescribed Psychiatric Medication in 2009

Are We More Anxious? Or Just Popping More Pills?

Feeling anxious? You are not alone. Antianxiety drug Xanax is the top-popped pill among psychiatric drugs in the US, according to IMS Health's list of the 25 most prescribed psychiatric medications in 2009. Antianxiety drug Ativan jumped from the number five spot in 2005 to number three last year. Interestingly, Xanax and Ativan prescriptions were up 29 and 36 percent since 2005, while Prozac and Zoloft were down.

Are doctors more likely to prescribe anxiety drugs than they used to be? Or — I'm just gonna throw this out there — perhaps the recreational and/or casual popping of antianxiety pills helps propel them to the top of the list. Andrew on Kell on Earth was keen on handing Ativan out like candy, and he's not the only one.

This doesn't necessarily mean Americans are more anxious than we are depressed. For more insight and to see the full list,


Antidepressants Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac still rounded out the top five most-prescribed meds, and for women in particular, depression may be the bigger problem. A story in today's Guardian, about yet another female author 'fessing up to depression, cites decades worth of studies indicating that women are diagnosed with depression at twice the rate of men, across economic brackets. From 1993 and 2007, the incidence of depression and anxiety rose by a fifth in women ages 45 to 64, but for men stayed the same.


With so many competing stats, it's hard to know what's contributing to the rise in antianxiety drugs or the rise in depression. Better diagnoses, more medicating, or a fundamental shift in women's mental health? Tell me what you think — especially if you've taken any of these meds. Here's the full list of the top 25 psychiatric drugs:

  1. Xanax (anxiety)
  2. Lexapro (depression, anxiety)
  3. Ativan (anxiety, panic disorder)
  4. Zoloft (depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, PMDD)
  5. Prozac (depression, anxiety)
  6. Desyrel (depression, anxiety)
  7. Cymbalta (depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy)
  8. Seroquel (bipolar disorder, depression)
  9. Effexor XR (depression, anxiety, panic disorder)
  10. Valium (anxiety, panic disorder)
  11. Amphetamine salts (attention deficit disorder)
  12. Risperdal (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, irritability in autism)
  13. Vistaril (anxiety, tension)
  14. Bupropion (depression, stop smoking)
  15. Abilify (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression)
  16. Concerta (attention deficit disorder)
  17. Celexa (depression, anxiety)
  18. Buspar (sleep, anxiety)
  19. Vyvanse (ADD)
  20. Zyprexa (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia)
  21. Adderall XR (attention defecit disorder)
  22. Wellbutrin XL (depression)
  23. Geodon (bipolar disorder, schizophrenia)
  24. Strattera (attention deficit disorder)
  25. Pristiq (depression)
Join The Conversation
MissSushi MissSushi 7 years
The two major things in my opinion are drug companies pushing drs to prescribe and less stigma. You don't just get locked in a mental institute and subjected to ice baths and shock therapy for panic attacks anymore... My husband is one of those who HAS to be on lexapro for his depression. Period. He is totally unable to control his emotions without it. and it severely affects his quality of life. If he wasn't flying off the handle, he was trying to sleep 16 hours a day. I need exercise and sunshine to be happy. I can't handle living in a cave of a house and sitting around all day long.
reesiecup reesiecup 7 years
Tolerance and psychologic and physical dependence may occur following prolonged use of benzodiazepines (ex, Ativan, Valium, Klonopin, Xanax, etc). The abuse potential is definitely there and response to the drug varies from person to person and can also depend on the specific drug. These drugs help a lot of people but it's definitely not for everyone. Since they are controlled substances, I get to count each pill for inventory on Saturday...yay.
reesiecup reesiecup 7 years
I think some medications may be over-prescribed and many of these listed can be dangerous if used inappropriately. A lot of the sales are undoubtedly driven by advertisements, increased patient awareness, increased correct diagnoses, and prescription expectations of patients when they see their doctors. In the end, we need to keep in mind that one pill cannot cure everything. There are risks and benefits to consider before starting or stopping a medication and a lot of disease states require lifestyle changes in addition to medicine. However, psychiatric disease states should be taken seriously and addressed. Assessments should always be made for safety and efficacy of the therapy.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
I don't think we should take Xanax off of the market because of the potential for abuse, because we'd be taking a lot of things off of the market that are truly beneficial for the people who don't abuse them. It's unfortunate that's it's so addictive, but for the people who rely on it for anxiety, it would be a world of hurt to take it away.
soapbox soapbox 7 years
Xanax should be swept off the market. Sure, it's a life saver, but there's a thin line between wanting a Xanax and needing a Xanax. There was a time when I was addicted to Xanax and had to spend time in rehab because that addiction open doors to other drugs. Even to this day, after 1 year of being clean and sober, my personality is still drastically different. Xanax pretty much turned my world upside down. That being said, I don't have a problem with drugs like Lexapro and Zoloft. The side effects are mild and I found them helpful in the past. But now, I choose to treat my depression with music, writing and running.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 7 years
I take Lexapro on a daily basis and Klonopin (a sedative, basically) for acute panic attacks and I can't really adequately describe how much they've helped me. I have an anxiety disorder that I've tried to control on my own (through exercise, yoga, relaxation techniques), and it would get so bad that simply the thought of having a panic attack would set one in motion. The fact that 10 mg of Lexapro gets me through the day on an even keel is, like Runningesq said, a lifesaver.
runningesq runningesq 7 years
Ugh, it annoys me when people say (not you, SKG :)) that no one should take pills, that you should just exercise, etc. Are those medications ^^ overprescribed? Maybe. But for some people (myself included) they are a lifesaver. If you've ever woken up in the middle of the night with night sweats and a high heart beat and threw up due a panic attack you know how awful those feelings can be. Just 5mg of Lexapro stops me from having them. I don't have any side effects and if popping a small pill daily lets me sleep through every night without freaking out, then I will gladly take it. Every woman and every case is different, of course.
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