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From PsychCentral, these are the  medications most frequently prescribed last year in the U.S:

  1. Xanax (for anxiety) 48,000,000 prescriptions
  2. Celexa (depression, anxiety) 38,000,000
  3. Zoloft (depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD) 37,000,000
  4. Ativan (anxiety, panic disorder) 27,000,000
  5. Prozac (depression, anxiety) 24,500,000
  6. Lexapro (depression, anxiety) 24,000,000
  7. Desyrel/trazadone (depression, anxiety) 22,600,000
  8. Cymbalta (depression, anxiety) 18,000,000
  9. Valium (anxiety, panic disorder) 15,000,000
  10. Seroquel (bipolar disorder, depression) 14,000,000

That’s a lot of medication.  Although the medication is classified as psychiatric or psychotropic, much of it is probably prescribed by a patient’s general practitioner or internist rather than a psychiatrist.  Unfortunately, medication is often offered without discussing whether psychotherapy might be helpful.

Medication can be helpful in many cases.  They are a very good way of dealing with panic attacks.  They can help control, or even prevent anxiety (though some medications on this list have a potential for creating psychological dependency if over-used).  And antidepressants can help marshall energy to create change in life, or to prevent the sort of “black hole” depression that makes life seem not worth living.

But medication alone is not the answer when the cause of the problem is unhealthy patterns of thinking or living.  In those situations, medication can remove the sense of urgency and even make change more difficult.  And, of course, some people dislike the idea of taking medication unless it is absolutely necessary.

Appropriate use of medication means moving beyond simply easing the symptoms and taking time to look at underlying causes.