More Americans are taking anti-anxiety medications as the spread of the novel coronavirus continues to take a toll on mental health.
A new report from Express Scripts, a Cigna-owned pharmacy benefit manager, found the number of prescriptions for anti-anxiety medications increased by more than one-third.
What’s more, the number peaked for the week ending on March 15, which is when the virus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
The authors say they are not surprised by the findings and that the increases in prescriptions are understandable because many adults have become anxious about their lives being upended over such a short period of time.
A new report found that prescriptions for antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and anti-insomnia drugs increased by 21% from mid-February to mid-March (pictured)
The biggest spike was seen in the number of prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs, which soared by 34.1%
The results come on the heels of several polls that showed the coronavirus pandemic taking a toll on the mental health of US adults. Pictured: A patient is loaded into an ambulance by emergency medical workers outside Cobble Hill Health Center, in Brooklyn, New York, April 17
For the report, published this month, the team looked at prescriptions for mental health medications filled from January 19 to March 15 among 31.5 million Express Scripts customers with employer-based health insurance.
Medications included antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs and anti-insomnia drugs.
Researchers found that for all three medications, prescriptions increased by 21 percent from mid-February and mid-March.
Prescriptions for antidepressants increased by 18.6 percent, and those for sleeping medications increased by 14.8 percent.
The largest spike was seen in the number of prescriptions for anti-anxiety drugs, which soared by 34.1 percent.
Another finding was that 78 percent – more than three quarters – of all prescriptions filled during the March 15 peak week were new prescriptions.
This means that many Americans were turning to the drugs for the first time as their depression, anxiety and inability to sleep worsened.
From mid-February to mid-March, the biggest increase in new prescriptions was seen in those for anti-anxiety medications at 37.7 percent.
‘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,’ a press release read.
Earlier this month, a Kaiser Family Foundation report found that four in ten adults – 45 percent – felt that worry and stress related to the coronavirus was having a negative impact on their mental health.
This was up from 32 percent who reported feeling the same way in early March.
And an American Psychiatric Association poll from March found that nearly half of Americans were anxious about the possibility of contracting the virus.
Far more of respondents, 62 percent, were anxious about a loved one becoming seriously ill with the disease.
In the US, there are currently more than 771,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 41,000 fatalities