Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Drugs designed to calm mental health symptoms could be making them worse, a study says.
Nearly a quarter of people with bipolar disorder in Scotland are misprescribed antidepressants, which can bring on mania in people with the condition, a study revealed in the Thursday issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.
Lithium is considered the best treatment for bipolar disorder, but between 2009 and 2016, prescriptions for the drug fell in Scotland.
During that time, despit the drug's perceived effectiveness, it was only prescribed to one in 20 patients with bipolar.
"These findings are a matter for concern. They suggest that many people in Scotland with bipolar disorder may not be getting the best medication treatment," Daniel Smith, a researcher at the University of Glasgow and study lead author, in a news release. "Specifically, we found that there was a gradual decline in the prescribing of lithium (the best for bipolar disorder) and a pattern of consistently high prescribing of antidepressants on their own. For many patients, the use of antidepressants in bipolar disorder runs the risk of making the long-term course of the illness worse, rather than better."
During the time of the study, antidepressant use remained steady, while antipsychotic and anticonvulsant drug prescriptions increased. This is important because these drugs can cause mood destabilization and possibly mania.
The researchers say lithium is the only psychiatric drug proven to stop suicidal tendencies.
But some studies say the drug has been linked to birth defects in pregnant women giving birth to infants.
"It's not clear why psychiatrists are prescribing less lithium - it may be because of changes in clinical training or because of effective marketing of medications like antipsychotics," Smith said. "We hope these findings will act as a stimulus for greater use of lithium in bipolar disorder and less use of antidepressants on their own, in line with current clinical guidelines."
In the U.S., nearly 3 percent of the population suffers from bipolar disorder, according to the National Institutes of Health.
"This study makes interesting reading. We've been concerned for some time by the number of people being prescribed antidepressants without an accompanying mood stabilizer. We urge everyone to have a constructive discussion with their clinician to ensure they're receiving the best medication possible and to know why they're taking it. We strongly endorse patient-clinician partnerships."