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Acta Psychiatr Scand Suppl. 2004;(420):55-64.

Psychotropic drug utilization in Europe: results from the European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD) project.



To assess psychotropic drug utilization in the general population of six European countries, and the pattern of use in individuals with different DSM-IV diagnoses of 12-month mental disorders.


Data were derived from the European Study of the Epidemiology of Mental Disorders (ESEMeD/MHEDEA 2000), a cross-sectional psychiatric epidemiological study in a representative sample of 21 425 adults aged 18 or older from six European countries (e.g. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain). Individuals were asked about any psychotropic drug use in the past 12 months, even if they used the drug(s) just once. A colour booklet containing high-quality pictures of psychotropic drugs commonly used to treat mental disorders was provided to help respondents recall drug use.


Psychotropic drug utilization is generally low in individuals with any 12-month mental disorder (32.6%). The extent of psychotropic drug utilization varied according to the specific DSM-IV diagnosis. Among individuals with a 12-month diagnosis of pure major depression, only 21.2% had received any antidepressants within the same period; the exclusive use of antidepressants was even lower (4.6%), while more individuals took only anxiolytics (18.4%).


These data question the appropriateness of current pharmacological treatments, particularly for major depression, in which under-treatment is coupled with the high use of non-specific medications, such as anxiolytics.

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