Prescriptions for psychotropic drugs have increased dramatically, but mental health has not improved, study finds.
Photo Credit: CBC

Psychiatric drug prescription up in Canada



More Canadians are using psychiatric drugs and individuals are each getting more prescriptions than they have in the past, according to a new study from the University of Saskatchewan and Ottawa’s Montfort Hospital.  In spite of that there appears to have been no improvement in mental health.

The study also shows that far more of these drugs are being prescribed by family doctors rather than by specialists.

Although the study was done using available statistics on prescriptions dispensed in the western province of Saskatchewan, they are believed to hold true for the rest of Canada and to indicate what is going on in other industrialized societies.

Several drugs studied

The drugs examined in the study were 62 medications used to treat mental disorders and included anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers and stimulants.

The proportion of people who got at least one prescription for psychotropic drugs increased 54 per cent between 1983 and 2007, going from about eight per cent to 13 per cent. People over 70 years old were over represented.

The number of people who got multiple prescriptions in a given year went up from 56 per cent to 74 per cent over the same period.

“Anti-depressants are marketed more”

“The largest increase has occurred in anti-depressants and they’re certainly being marketed more,” said Carl D’Arcy, a study co-author and professor in the department of Psychiatry and the School of Public Health at the University of Saskatchewan.

Family doctors need to fully understand
anti-depressant treatment, says Prof. Colin D’Arcy.

“They’re probably seen as being very efficacious and, in some respects, (in) treating psychiatric problems or emotional mental health problems… a drug treatment fits our therapy modality or how we pay physicians. We pay physicians in Canada on a piece rate basis that fits much better to that model than, say, cognitive behavioural therapies or other kinds of talking therapies.”

“The inferences you can draw (from the results) are varied,” said D’Arcy. “Some people would question whether we’re over-prescribing those drugs. Other people would think that what we’re doing is fine…You would expect with substantial increases in anti-depressant use that we would see decreases in depression…and that certainly hasn’t happened over time.

“We’re in an anti-depressant prescription kind of phase”

“You know medicine, just like other professions, goes through fads and phases. So we’re in an anti-depressant prescription kind of phase. We see it as effective and if they’re judged to be non-effective then you can see patterns change over time.

“One thing is clear,” continued D’Arcy. “We have to make sure that general practitioners fully understand the nature of anti-depressant treatment, and are fully briefed on when to prescribe these drugs, how long to prescribe these drugs for and so forth.”

The study has been published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Posted in Health

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.