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See Inside February/March 2008

The Medicated Americans: Antidepressant Prescriptions on the Rise

Close to 10 percent of men and women in America are now taking drugs to combat depression. How did a once rare condition become so common?



Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy Getty Images

I am thinking of the Medicated Americans, those 11 percent of women and 5 percent of men who are taking antidepressants.

It is Sunday night. The Medicated American—let’s call her Julie, and let’s place her in Winterset, Iowa—is getting ready for bed. Monday morning and its attendant pressures—the rush to get out of the house, the long commute, the bustle of the office—loom. She opens the cabinet of the bathroom vanity, removes a medicine bottle and taps a pill into her palm. She fills a glass of water, places the colorful pill in her mouth and swallows. The little pill could be any one of 30 available drugs used as antidepressants—such as Prozac or Zoloft or Paxil or Celexa or Lexapro or Luvox or Buspar or Nardil or Elavil or Sinequan or Pamelor or Serzone or Desyrel or Norpramin or Tofranil or Adapin or Vivactil or Ludiomil or Endep or Parnate or Remeron. The pill makes a slight flutter as it passes down her throat.

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