Information from a recent federal study is showing that 11 percent of the American population is currently taking some form of antidepressant medication such as Paxil. This information was released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This means that two times more people are taking antidepressants than going to movies. The study also showed that 23 percent of middle-aged women (one in every 4 women) are taking drugs like Paxil and that 11 percent of people aged 12 or older have used either Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil or some other type of antidepressants. According to nationally-conducted surveys, women were prescribed the pills more often than men were and that Caucasian people relied on the drugs more than minorities did. Of those people taking the drugs, it was mostly women aged 40 to 59 that admitted to taking antidepressants. Almost 19 percent of senior women over 60 used them.

“I think it’s a disturbing thing that so many people are feeling like things are bad enough that a long-term medication makes sense,” said Dr. Josephine Soliz, a family doctor in Oxnard, Calif. “I think it likely also reflects the fact that sometimes mental health services don’t really serve the walking wounded. It’s pretty hard to get first-rate mental health services if you’re depressed but not suicidal.”

Laura Pratt, lead author of the CDC study, disagrees with Soliz; she feels that underuse of antidepressants is a larger problem than overuse.

“I think that’s more undertreatment than overtreatment,” Pratt says. “Two-thirds of people with severe depression aren’t being treated.”

Considering that recent data have shown a 400 percent rise in antidepressant use since the 1980s, underuse doesn’t appear to be the problem — especially since antidepressant medications like Paxil and Prozac have serious adverse side effects that can be fatal for some patients. Research has shown that SSRI medications like Prozac or Paxil cause patients to behave in suicidal and homicidal ways. The drugs can also cause birth defects in babies whose mothers take the drugs while pregnant. From that perspective, many believe that antidepressants should not be prescribed at all. Studies also have shown that the medications may be no more effective at curing and treating depression than placebos.