Treatment of mental health problems in general practice: a survey of psychotropics prescribed and other treatments provided

E van Rijswijk, M Borghuis, E van de Lisdonk, F Zitman, C van Weel
International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics 2007, 45 (1): 23-9

OBJECTIVE: Real-life data on the treatment of patients with mental health problems are important as a reference to evaluate care and benchmarking. This study describes the treatment of mental health problems in general practice as diagnosed by general practitioners (GP).

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Data on mental health problems were available from structured psychiatric interviews in the general population and data on mental health problems diagnosed by general practitioners. Pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment data were taken from patients records held electronically in general practices.

RESULTS: GPs diagnosed a mental health problem in 13.2% of the 1,756 cases examined and 86% of these patients were treated by the GPs themselves. Of the 16% referrals, the majority were referred within primary care. Nearly all patients with a mental health problem received counseling or advice from their GP. Half of the patients with a medication-related disorder, a (single) mood disorder or an (single) anxiety disorder and all patients with a combined anxiety and depressive disorder received a prescription for psychotropic drugs (antidepressants and/or benzodiazepines). Nearly all patients with a sleep disorder received a prescription for benzodiazepine. In patients with psychosocial problems, 20% received benzodiazepines.

CONCLUSION: The majority of mental health problems, when professionally treated, are treated in primary care. More than half the patients are treated with antidepressants and/or benzodiazepines. Most patients also receive supportive counseling or advice.

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