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PLoS One. 2013 May 14;8(5):e62270. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062270. Print 2013.

Epidemiology of psychotropic drug use in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: gaps in mental illness treatments.

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  • 1Federal University of São Paulo - Paulista Medical School, São Paulo, Brazil.



Estimate the prevalence of psychotropic drugs use in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and establish its relationship with the presence of mental disorders.


A probabilistic sample of non-institutionalized individuals, from the general population of Rio de Janeiro (n = 1208;turn out:81%), 15 years or older, who were interviewed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview 2.1 (depression, anxiety-phobia, OCD\PTSD, alcoholism sections), and asked about their psychotropic use during a 12 and one-month period before the interview. Data were collected between June/2007-February/2008.The prevalence was estimated with a confidence interval of 95%. The associations between psychotropics use and mental disorders were analyzed through a logistic regression model (Odds Ration - OR).


The one-month prevalence of psychotropic drug use was 6.55%, 3.19% for men and 9.13% for women. Antidepressants were the most frequently used drug (2.78%), followed by anorectics (1.65%), tranquilizers (1.61%) and mood stabilizers (1.23%). General practitioners issued the highest number of prescriptions (46.3%), followed by psychiatrists (29.3%); 86.6% of the psychotropic drugs used were paid for by the patient himself. Individuals with increased likelihood of using psychotropic drugs were those that had received a psychiatric diagnosis during a one-month period before the study (OR:3.93), females (OR:1.82), separated/divorced (OR:2.23), of increased age (OR:1.03), with higher income (OR:2.96), and family history of mental disorder (OR:2.59); only 16% of the individuals with a current DSM IV diagnosis were using a psychotropic drug; 17% among individuals with a depression-related diagnosis and 8% with Phobic Anxiety Disorders-related diagnosis used psychotropics.


Approximately 84% of individuals displaying some mental disorder did not use psychotropic drugs, which indicates an important gap between demand and access to treatment. A significant failure is evident in the health system for patients with mental disorders; this could be due to health workers' inability to recognize mental disorders among individuals.

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