During 1972, adults admitted to general medical and surgical wards in Boston area hospitals were interviewed to determine their use of prescribed psychotropic drugs prior to hospitalization. Patients hospitalized for psychiatric disorders or psychogenic ("functional") disease were excluded. Patients who had taken prescribed drugs that could not be identified were considered nonusers.
Of the total sample, 20% gave a history of psychotropic drug use. Antianxiety drugs were taken by 15% of the patients and accounted for two thirds of total psychotropic drug use. Hypnotics were taken by another 4% of the sample. Slightly over half of antianxiety and hypnotic drug use was for a year or more. Use was more frequent in patients with potentially chronic medical disorders. The findings, in general, are consistent with other studies employing other methods to investigate the use of psychotropic drugs. Simple studies of use, however, do not provide a sole or adequate definition of treatment option, need, or efficacy.