Prescriptions for mental health medications filled per week jumped by 21% between mid-February and mid-March, reports pharmacy benefit plan manager Express Scripts.
In what may be a telltale sign of the pandemic’s effect on mental health, anti-anxiety drugs were in especially high demand. Prescriptions for this drug class rose 34%, while antidepressants and insomnia aids followed suit at 19% and 15%, respectively.
The data comes from Express Scripts’ sample of more than 31.5 million commercially insured individuals. New prescription numbers peaked in mid-March, when COVID-19 cases spiked and a pandemic was declared.
The news is particularly notable in that anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia medication use had declined between 2015 and 2019. Antidepressant use, however, had climbed during this time period.
While the current prescription increase is sudden, it’s understandable considering that the global pandemic has upended Americans’ lives, the company said in a statement. “It is encouraging to see our members recognizing the need for help and seeking support from their physician.”