A Lot of Prescriptions: Introduction.

Doctors write a lot of prescriptions for psychiatric medications.

According to this paper, pharmacies filled 472 million prescriptions for psychiatric medications between August 2006 and July 2007. There weren’t even 472 million people in the United States in that year. (In 2009, there were 307 million people in the country.)

Furthermore, the National Institute of Mental Health has reported that many people have psychiatric conditions. It said that in 2004, 57.7 million people suffered from a diagnosable mental disorder.

Were those 472 million prescriptions written for the 57 million-ish people with diagnosable mental disorders?

What about those prescriptions that were written, but not filled? Were those for individuals with psychiatric diagnoses?

Or what about the prescriptions for people who don’t have psychiatric conditions? Were those prescriptions even necessary?

And, of course, what about the people who have psychiatric conditions, but never receive prescriptions?

People understandably express concern about the widespread use of these medications. Do all those people actually need those pills? Just what conditions or symptoms are being treated? Do people ask for these medications, or do doctors reflexively write prescriptions?

Following are some short stories that may help explain why many physicians–for better or worse–write a lot of prescriptions for psychiatric medications for their patients.

  1. Dr. Rules
  2. Dr. Rush
  3. Dr. Distress
  4. Dr. Fixit
  5. Dr. Refer