The recent increase in usage was nearly twice as high for women, whose prescriptions jumped almost 40%, compared with men, who saw a 22.7% rise.
It’s a sharp reversal from the pattern over the last five years, during which the use of drugs known as benzodiazepines — including Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan and Valium — declined 12.1%. Doctors have shifted away from prescribing these medications, which are more prone to abuse, in favor of therapy, said Dr. Glen Stettin, Express Scripts’ chief innovation officer.
Looking at medications for anxiety, depression and insomnia, prescriptions increased 21% between mid-February and mid-March.
They started to level off after March 15, possibly because Americans started sheltering in place, though they remained at a higher level than at the start of the year, Stettin said.
The coronavirus report looks at usage among 31.5 million Express Scripts customers with employer-based coverage.
Nearly half of Americans were anxious about possibly contracting coronavirus and 62% were anxious about a loved one falling ill, according to an American Psychiatric Association poll from March.
“During this time, it is important to do what we can to maintain self-care and manage the stress,” said Dr. Bruce Schwartz, the association’s president.