Coronavirus Pandemic Sparks Rise in Prescriptions for Depression, Anxiety, and Insomnia as Psychiatrist Warns of Looming Mental Health Crisis in America

The new coronavirus pandemic has triggered a spike in prescriptions for depression, anxiety and insomnia in a looming mental health pandemic that could explode in America if steps aren’t taken to prevent it, one of the world’s leading psychiatrists on mood disorders has warned.

Dr. Roger McIntyre, who is currently a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto and head of the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit at the University Health Network in Toronto, told The Christian Post in a recent interview that the deadly coronavirus — which has already killed more than 47,000 people nationwide and infected close to 900,000 — is already taking its toll on Americans mentally.

“This is the greatest threat on our mental health in our lifetime. A combustible mix of fear, insecurity and quarantine,” he said. ”We’re very concerned about an increase in suicide, depression, stress and alcoholism [but] with the appropriate social, medical and individual response we can prevent the [mental health] curve.”

In their latest report on the use of medications to treat three of the most common mental health conditions — depression, anxiety and insomnia — Express Scripts, America’s largest pharmacy benefit management organization, showed how the coronavirus has already been impacting America’s mental health.

Express Scripts research shows that the number of prescriptions filled per week for antidepressant, anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medications increased 21 percent between Feb. 16 and March 15, peaking the week ending March 15, when the virus was declared a pandemic.

“It’s understandable. Americans have grown increasingly anxious as they’ve seen this global pandemic upend their lives within a very short time,” the report said. “This analysis, showing that many Americans are turning to medications for relief, demonstrates the serious impact COVID-19 may be having on our nation’s mental health.”

Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications, which rose 34.1 percent from mid-February to mid-March, including a week-over-week spike of nearly 18 percent during the week ending March 15, showed the greatest spike. The number of prescriptions filled for antidepressants and sleep disorders also increased 18.6 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively, from Feb. 16 to March 15.

Evidence from a previous study also shows that during the previous recession, for every 1 percent increase in unemployment there was a corresponding 1 percent increase in suicide.

Over the last five weeks, over 26 million people in the nation have filed for unemployment as lockdowns nationwide forced businesses to close.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair