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Despite their documented efficacy, substantial proportions of patients discontinue antidepressant medication (ADM) without a doctor's recommendation. The current report integrates data on patient-reported reasons into an investigation of patterns and predictors of ADM discontinuation.
Face-to-face interviews with community samples from 13 countries (n = 30 697) in the World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys included n = 1890 respondents who used ADMs within the past 12 months.
10.9% of 12-month ADM users reported discontinuation-based on recommendation of the prescriber while 15.7% discontinued in the absence of prescriber recommendation. The main patient-reported reason for discontinuation was feeling better (46.6%), which was reported by a higher proportion of patients who discontinued within the first 2 weeks of treatment than later. Perceived ineffectiveness (18.5%), predisposing factors (e.g. fear of dependence) (20.0%), and enabling factors (e.g. inability to afford treatment cost) (5.0%) were much less commonly reported reasons. Discontinuation in the absence of prescriber recommendation was associated with low country income level, being employed, and having above average personal income. Age, prior history of psychotropic medication use, and being prescribed treatment from a psychiatrist rather than from a general medical practitioner, in comparison, were associated with a lower probability of this type of discontinuation. However, these predictors varied substantially depending on patient-reported reasons for discontinuation.
Dropping out early is not necessarily negative with almost half of individuals noting they felt better. The study underscores the diverse reasons given for dropping out and the need to evaluate how and whether dropping out influences short- or long-term functioning.
The most common treatment for major depressive disorder (MDD) is antidepressant medication (ADM). Results are reported on frequency of ADM use, reasons for use, and perceived effectiveness of use in general population surveys across 20 countries.
Face-to-face interviews with community samples totaling n = 49 919 respondents in the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health (WMH) Surveys asked about ADM use anytime in the prior 12 months in conjunction with validated fully structured diagnostic interviews. Treatment questions were administered independently of diagnoses and asked of all respondents.
3.1% of respondents reported ADM use within the past 12 months. In high-income countries (HICs), depression (49.2%) and anxiety (36.4%) were the most common reasons for use. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), depression (38.4%) and sleep problems (31.9%) were the most common reasons for use. Prevalence of use was 2–4 times as high in HICs as LMICs across all examined diagnoses. Newer ADMs were proportionally used more often in HICs than LMICs. Across all conditions, ADMs were reported as very effective by 58.8% of users and somewhat effective by an additional 28.3% of users, with both proportions higher in LMICs than HICs. Neither ADM class nor reason for use was a significant predictor of perceived effectiveness.
ADMs are in widespread use and for a variety of conditions including but going beyond depression and anxiety. In a general population sample from multiple LMICs and HICs, ADMs were widely perceived to be either very or somewhat effective by the people who use them.
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