The Pandemic’s Impact on the Consumption of Antidepressants

By Zack Pelosky

Depression rates in American adults have increased dramatically following the COVID-19 pandemic. (Lea Rojec / Shutterstock)

In the aftermath of the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the byproducts of lockdowns and irregularities in daily life linger, plaguing the American people.


In the early months of the pandemic, global leaders scurried to delay the seemingly inevitable spread. In an attempt to do so, there was a nearly simultaneous global lockdown. Schools and “non-essential” businesses were subject to sudden closures and many were ordered to stay home. This unforeseen isolation of a vulnerable population, aided by other COVID-19 related issues such as losing a loved one, stoked the fire of a young population on antidepressants.


In one of the first nationally representative studies on depression rates in the United States during COVID-19, research published in The Lancet examined several thousand Americans and obtained utterly shocking results. In the decade preceding COVID-19, there was an average flatline in adults experiencing elevated symptoms of depression at around 8%. However, this rate in depression increased by nearly 25% for adults in the United States. This increase further highlighted the inequality in health and wealth. For those who make less than 20,000 dollars a year, they were 2.3 times more likely to experience heightened symptoms of depression when compared to those who earn more than 75,000 dollars per annum. One year later, in the spring of 2021, the same lower-class Americans were seven times more likely to experience the symptoms.


How does this affect the American public? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, thoughts of depression can lead to abuse, lack of productivity, suicide, and increased reliance on illicit substances and antidepressants.


Unfortunately, The Lancet researchers were not the only group to recognize the massive spike in depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. The medical industry also noticed heightened demand for antidepressant medication. Nearly one-third of those taking antidepressants in 2020 had no history of use half a year prior to their first dose in 2020. The industry, with an extensive history of price gouging in an unregulated and nearly monopolized market, raised prices nearly 100 percent on antidepressants. Though asset price inflation has been a significant issue recently, this spike in pricing outpaced nearly every other major commodity. Furthermore, due to the political lobbying and the traditionally relaxed government intervention in the medical industry, these prices will continue to rise until demand begins to simmer.


Having a large portion of the population on antidepressants is a problem in and of itself, though it also exacerbates already existing problems such as widening the wealth gap, higher suicide rates, and addictiveness. By having a higher percentage of low income Americans on expensive antidepressants, American taxpayers have to foot the bill, allowing pharmaceutical companies to continue to profit off the American system. Furthermore, a higher number of young Americans are now being prescribed and administered these antidepressants. This can be a disastrous turn as a review based on the data submitted to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) of the United Kingdom showed an increased rate of suicide (up to two times higher) during early treatment with antidepressants.


The equally egregious side is the lackluster and nearly non-existent response by the Federal Government. Prices continue to rise while more deadly drugs are administered to the uninformed youth. Big Pharma has taken advantage of the American system, and lobbying prevents any significant response. It seems that the health of the American youth and future is dependent on the whims of Pharma.