Pharmacoepidemiology is a burgeoning area of psychiatry. Several reports suggest that the prescription and use of psychotropic drugs are increasing. This widespread use has generated a great deal of controversy and public concern. It is necessary to monitor the utilization ofpsy chotropic drugs because many of them have the potential for abuse, serious side effects and illicit use. In developed countries, most psychotropic drugs are only available through prescription. Therefore, the prescribing habits of physicians may influence the extent and pattern ofuse ofpsy . Busto et al found an overall increase in the use of benzodiazepines in Canada from 1983 to 1987, and argued that their findings reflected patterns of benzodiazepine prescriptions because these are prescribed drugs.
A number of studies have criticized the way physicians, particularly psychiatrists, prescribe psychotropic drugs, eg, accusations that physicians prescribe psychotropic drugs irrationally and usually employ polypharmacy. ‘P-olypharmacy’refers to the indiscriminate and excessive use of many different drugs in treating a disease, and must be distinguished from ‘polytherapy’ which is the concurrent use of multiple drugs or therapies in the treatment of disease. Polytherapy is an accepted mode of treatment in certain diseases such as hypertension, manic depressive illness and epilepsy. Polypharmacy may still be a problem in polytherapy. Recent studies have not substantiated the allegations of irrational prescribing and unnecessary polypharmacy. However, some studies have found considerable variation in the patterns of psychotropic drug use between individual pre-scribers and institutions.