Missouri sees surge in demand for prescription drugs for mental health

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – The COVID-19 pandemic has added stress to many of our lives, leading for the first time to more people struggling with anxiety or other health issues mental.

It has also led to an increase in the demand for prescription drugs. A new survey from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics found that Missouri ranked sixth and Arkansas 12th in the nation for prescription mental health drugs over the past four weeks.

Psychologist Dr Jennifer Baker says medication can help, but it’s also crucial for people to learn other coping skills or seek therapy.

“Medication can help people overcome the initial hurdle, the initial motivation to make these changes,” says Dr. Baker. “If they don’t continue with these behavioral changes like exercising, changing their diet, changing the way they do things, they’re probably going to continue to have this problem.”

A study found that in Missouri, 28% of people are currently taking a prescribed medication for mental health. Data from the study indicates that this is a 17% increase from January 2021 to present.

Stephanie Appleby has been on medication for a decade.

“Being on medication is something I know I will probably have to take for the rest of my life. I’m okay with that because I never want to go back to the space I was in before,” Appleby says.

For Appleby, it’s a positive step that primary care doctors are getting more mental health training and that patients can get prescriptions during routine checkups.

“A doctor once told me that the side effects you get from untreated mental illness are much worse than the side effects you’ll get from medication,” Appleby says.

Dr. Baker says the stress and anxiety of the pandemic plays a major role in this.

However, Dr. Baker says that doesn’t mean people will take the drug long term.

“On an antidepressant, you could take it for several months, but an anti-anxiety drug is the type that should be used more in the short term for most people,” says Dr. Baker.

The study also found that women had the biggest increases in prescription use across the country.

Dr. Baker says women suffer from depression more often than men and are more likely to seek help from their doctor.

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