‘Hamster peak’ of psychotropic drugs at the start of the corona lockdown

Monday, 13. July 2020 – 9:59 Update: 13-07-2020 11:48


The corona pandemic and measures taken, such as social isolation, have led to fear and worry in many people. Nivel’s research shows that this did not lead to the doctor prescribing medicines more often for anxiety, depression or insomnia. Apart from a brief spike in prescribing at the start of the lockdown in mid-March, the figures are similar to those for the same period in 2019.

The Nivel monitors the prescription of medicines by general practitioners during the corona pandemic. This week we publish the second fact sheet in this series; this is about prescribing benzodiazepines and antidepressants, two forms of psychiatric drugs.

Short-term increase in prescription of psychiatric drugs indicates ‘hamster effect’

In week 12 (March 16-22), general practitioners prescribed significantly more benzodiazepines and antidepressants than in the same period in 2019. This was the week that schools and daycare centers closed and the call was made to stay at home as much as possible. No prescribing peak was seen in the number of new users of these agents. This indicates a ‘hamster effect’: people have started taking the medicines to be on the safe side. After week 12, the number of patients who were prescribed a benzodiazepine or an antidepressant returned to the level of 2019. The number of patients with a prescription for a benzodiazepine was even slightly lower than in 2019.


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