Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illness in the US, with 18.1% of adults and 25.1% of adolescents affected. Anxiety disorders include the following:
• Generalized Anxiety Disorder
• Panic Disorder
• Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (See separate section)
• Obsessive-compulsive Disorder
Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one third of the $148 billion total mental health bill for the U.S. (1999 numbers). Half of these costs are associated with the repeated use of healthcare services, as those with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.
People with an anxiety disorder are three-to-five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than non-sufferers. Women are twice as likely to be afflicted as men, and anxiety disorders are very likely to be comorbid with other disorders.
Counseling of various types has traditionally been used to address anxiety disorders. However, the increasing availability of anti-anxiety drugs has all but eliminated counseling as . Interestingly, the largest increase in use of anxiolytic medications in the past 10 years has been among teenagers.
The rise in anti-anxiety prescriptions has also brought a rise in anti-anxiety drug abuse. According to NBC New York, a rise in prescription drug abuse involving Xanax and similar anti-anxiety pills in recent years has prompted some doctors in the U.S. to rethink the frequency with which they dole out the prescription.
Between 2004 and 2009, New York City emergency room visits involving Xanax and other anti-anxiety prescription drugs, known as benzodiazepines, increased more than 50 percent. That’s up from 38 out of 100,000 New Yorkers in 2004 to 59 out of 100,000 New Yorkers.
Data from the New York City Department of Health also show benzodiazepines were tied to more than 30 percent of all the city’s overdose deaths in 2009, or 3.3 out of 10.9. Nearly all of those overdoses involved multiple drugs, of which benzodiazepine was just one.
The unfortunate reality is that many anti-anxiety drugs become addictive, compounding the anxiety problem with an addiction problem.