[Psychotropic drug use and mental psychiatric disorders in France; results of the general population ESEMeD/MHEDEA 2000 epidemiological study]

I Gasquet, L Nègre-Pagès, A Fourrier, G Nachbaur, A El-Hasnaoui, V Kovess, J-P Lépine
L'Encéphale 2005, 31 (2): 195-206

INTRODUCTION: The use of psychotropic drugs is high in France and has increased over the last two decades. To date, no national study evaluating psychotropic drug use in the context of the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders has been performed. Such data has now been generated in the ESEMeD/MHEDEA 2000 study, which has allowed comparison of the situation in France with that in five other European countries (Germany, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy).

OBJECTIVES: 1) To describe the declared use of psychotropic drugs (globally and by therapeutic class) in order to evaluate annual prevalence, treatment duration and demographic factors associated with use. 2) To estimate the proportion of subjects with an anxiety disorder, mood disorder or alcohol-related disorder (abuse or dependence) that have been appropriately treated with an antidepressant or anxiolytic drug. 3) to evaluate the proportion of psychotropic drug users who fulfil diagnostic criteria for these three classes of psychiatric disorder.

METHODS: This was a transversal survey carried out between 2001 and 2003 of non-institutionalised subjects aged 18 or over in the general population of Germany (n = 3,555), Belgium (n = 2,419), Spain (n = 5,473), France (n = 2,894), the Netherlands (n = 2,372) and Italy (n = 4,712). In France, the sampling source used was a randomly generated list of telephone numbers. Subjects were interviewed at home by professional interviewers. The WMH-CIDI questionnaire was used.

RESULTS: In France, 21% of subjects interviewed (n = 580) had taken at least one psychotropic drug during the year. For 19%, this was an anxiolytic or hypnotic (AX-HY), for 6.0% an antidepressant (AD), for 0.8% an antipsychotic (AP) and for 0.4% a mood regulating drug (TY). The distribution of users of AX-HY according to treatment duration was the following: 44% (1 to 15 days), 13% (16 to 30 days), 14% (1 to 3 months), 6.7% (3 to 6 months) and 23% (> 6 months). For users of ADs, the distribution was: 21% (1 to 15 days), 7.8% (16 to 30 days), 18% (1 to 3 months), 12% (3 to 6 months) and 42% (> 6 months). For subjects fulfilling diagnostic criteria for a mood disorder in the previous year or over their lifetime, 43% and 29% respectively had taken an AX-HY in the last twelve months and 29% and 16% an AD. For those who fulfilled diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder in the previous year or over their lifetime, the use of an AX-HY, in the last twelve months, concerned 43% and 30% of subjects respectively, whilst that of AD concerned 16% and 14%. For previous year or lifetime alcohol-related disorders, AX-HY use, in the last twelve months, concerned 63% and 22% of subjects respectively and use of ADs 9.3% and 7.2%. Amongst users of AX-HY in the last twelve months, a previous year or lifetime diagnosis of mood disorders was made for 16% and 39% of subjects respectively. Amongst users of ADs, the respective prevalence was 31% and 64%. A twelve-month and lifetime diagnosis of anxiety disorders was identified in 22% and 37% of users of AX-HY and among 27% and 50% of users of AD respectively. A twelve-month and lifetime diagnosis of alcohol-related disorders was found in 2.5% and 6.6% of users of AX-HY and among 1.1% and 7.8% of users of AD respectively. 68% of users of AX-HY had fulfilled none of these diagnostic criteria in the previous 12 months and 46% had never fulfilled them in their lifetime. With respect to AD users, the proportion who did not meet these diagnostic criteria in the previous 12 months was 56%, compared to 20% over their lifetime. Comparison of the French data from the study with those of the entire European sample showed that the annual prevalence of AX-HY and AD use was higher in France with mean treatment durations that were shorter. For antipsychotics and mood regulators, no clear differences were observed between France and the six countries of the study taken together.

DISCUSSION: Over the last two decades, use of AX-HY seems to have decreased in France, even though it remains higher than that observed in the other European countries participating in this study. This high use can be explained in part by the observation that, in around half the cases, it corresponds to occasional use. In contrast, the use of antidepressants has increased. In subjects with recent mood disorders or anxiety disorders, the use of AX-HY remains higher than that of antidepressants. Finally among users of AX-HY, only half of them had presented a mood disorder, anxiety disorder or alcohol use disorder during their lifetime, whereas this proportion rose to 80% for users of antidepressants.

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