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Pharmacists see increase in prescriptions for mental health medication amid pandemic

COVID-19 is taking a toll on many people's mental health, causing increases in anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and anti-insomnia medications.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — With all the stress of COVID-19, it's taking a toll on many people's mental health.

Research shows startling increases in anti-anxiety, anti-insomnia, and anti-depressant medications.

RELATED: Free mental health resources available for Arkansas COVID-19 frontline workers

Six of the ten local pharmacies THV11 reached out to said they have seen an uptick in these certain medications. 

One of them is pharmacist Anne Pace, owner of Kavanaugh Pharmacy, who said these increases don't surprise her. 

"Mental health is the biggest concern when something like this happens. People's minds don't stop because of so many life situations and the uncertainty to what is to come next," she said. 

A new report from a pharmacy benefit manager shows the number of prescriptions filled per week for anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and anti-insomnia medications increased 21% between February and March. 

The greatest increase was for anti-anxiety medications, which rose 34.1% with a peak of 18% the last week of the study. That last week was when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

Pace said this is a trend she saw.  

"I would say certainly at the beginning of COVID, people were really nervous and, you know the unknown, so we did a lot of refills on people's anxiety medicines that they don't get all that often," she said.

According to Pace, antidepressants had this same trend while anti-insomnia medications started to spark more interest. 

"We certainly have seen a lot of over-the-counter questions, asking for recommendations on insomnia medications and things they can do over-the-counter because people just aren't sleeping," she said. 

Psychologists Joyce Fowler said these types of feelings are completely normal for the situation we are in. 

"With the pandemic, we're all dealing with additional stressors on top of normal day-to-day stressors that happen," she said. 

According to Fowler, everyone right now is under "chronic stress."

"It can really wear and tear on you, so it's important to take care of yourself really well," she said. 

Fowler said the key is to focus on things you can control like healthy eating, sleeping habits, exercise, your social support system, and slower breathing. 

But remember, you're not in this alone. 

"Everyone's unique, but all of us are going through some emotional adjustments during this time," she said. 

RELATED: Taking care of your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

If you're struggling with insomnia, Dr. Fowler said going to sleep and waking up at the same time can help. 

Also, not looking at your phone before you go to bed.