Prescription psychotropic medication use among the U.S. adult population: results from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994

J Clin Epidemiol. 2004 Mar;57(3):309-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2003.05.001.


Objective: We estimated prescription psychotropic medication use among US adults.

Methods: We examined household interview data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994) for persons 17 years and older (n=20,050).

Study design and setting: An estimated 10 million adults (5.5%) reported psychotropic medication use during a 1-month period. The use of anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics (ASH) was most common (3.2%), followed by antidepressants (2.3%), antipsychotics (0.7%), and antimanics (0.1%). Psychotropic medication use was more prevalent among women than men (P<.001), non-Hispanic whites than non-Hispanic blacks (P<.001) and Mexican Americans (P<.001), and older rather than younger age groups (P<.001). Psychotropic medication use was also most common among those below the federal poverty level, those with no high school education, and among insured persons. Only 1% of adults used two or more psychotropic medications monthly.

Conclusion: Many adults use psychotropic medications on a monthly basis. ASH users comprised the largest proportion of psychotropic medication users. Patterns of use varied by several socio-demographic factors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States


  • Psychotropic Drugs