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    Increased Psychiatric Med Use Means Expanded Pharmacist Role

    Patients need more help managing complicated meds than ever—and pharmacists are there to help.


    As the use of psychiatric drugs continues to increase in the United States, pharmacists have a greater role in ensuring these medications are taken correctly and are not misused.

    According to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine, approximately 1 in 6 adults in the United States reported taking psychiatric drugs in 2013.

    The findings in the letter, written by Thomas J. Moore, AB, and Donald R. Mattison, MD, MS, were determined by using data from the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey [See Fig. 1].

    Figure 1Fig. 1These high levels of use for psychiatric drugs may be due to several factors. “There does seem to be an increased number of psychotropics being prescribed,” said Cherry W. Jackson, PharmD, BCPP, a Clinical Pharmacist and Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. “A lot of those seem to be being prescribed by primary care providers as opposed to psychiatrists, so a lot of those folks may not realize that there are other treatments out there that are evidence-based that might work without side effects.”

    Jackson said she’s seen the biggest increase in the prescribing of antipsychotics, antidepressants, and drugs used to treat ADHD.

    “It does seem like there’s a growth in the prescribing of psychotropics to children and the elderly, and those are two big causes of concern for us,” Jackson said.

    Stephanie Higashi, DC, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Health Atlast, an integrated health-care franchise that provides patients with access to medical doctors, doctors of chiropractic, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, and massage therapists in one location, also voiced concern about the growing use of psychiatric medications.

    “I think my biggest concern is that I just see that it’s typically overprescribed or overutilized and probably, honestly, over-requested by patients,” she said.

    Related article: Your New Role in the Battle Against Depression

    Higashi works with patients to find any alternative forms of treatment, whether it’s chiropractic care, lifestyle changes, vitamin or mineral supplements, or using prescriptive amino acids.

    For instance, some studies have shown that good nutrition can improve memory, mood, and alertness, Higashi said.

    Jackson added that research has also shown that meditation can also be helpful for depression, anxiety and patients with attention deficit issues.

    Another common concern for Higashi is that many of the patients she sees are often being treated by multiple care providers who are often unaware of the entire list of medications a patient is taking. She typically asks patients to carry a list or physically bring in all of their medications so care providers are able to get an accurate list of all of a patient’s current medications. “I know it takes a millisecond more time, but the time we put in now is going to fix our future, and the more we don’t spend the time now the bigger the problem is going to be in our future,” she said.

    Up next: The Pharmacist's Role

    Jill Sederstrom
    Jill Sederstrom is a Contributing Editor


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