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Psychiatr Serv. 2009 Aug;60(8):1015-23. doi: 10.1176/

Americans' attitudes toward psychiatric medications: 1998-2006.

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  • 1Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 North Broadway, Room 795, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.



This study examined recent changes in attitudes toward psychiatric medications in the U.S. general population.


Samples of adult participants in the U.S. General Social Surveys of 1998 (N=1,387) and 2006 (N=1,437) were compared for opinions on the benefits and risks of psychiatric medications as well as willingness to take them in hypothetical situations, including experiencing symptoms of panic attacks or major depression and difficulty in coping with stress or having trouble in personal life.


Public opinions regarding benefits of psychiatric medications became more favorable between 1998 and 2006. More participants in 2006 than in 1998 thought that medications help people to deal with day-to-day stresses (83.4% versus 77.8%), make things easier in relation with family and friends (75.9% versus 68.4%), and help people feel better about themselves (68.0% versus 60.1%). The public expressed a greater willingness to take medications in 2006 compared with 1998 for trouble in personal life (29.1% versus 23.3%), to cope with stresses of life (46.6% versus 35.5%), for depression (49.1% versus 41.2%), and for panic attacks (63.7% versus 55.6%). Opinions regarding the risks of medications did not change between 1998 and 2006.


Americans' opinions toward psychiatric medications became more favorable over the past decade, and people became more willing to take these medications. These changes have likely contributed to the increased use of psychiatric medications in recent years and will continue to do so in the coming years.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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