Psychotropic drugs flooding America

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," April 4, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Factor Follow up Segment" tonight. Authorities still searching for a motive after 34-year-old Army specialist Ivan Lopez murdered three people and wounded 16 others on Fort Hood, Texas on Wednesday. Lopez a troubled man was on medication.


JOHN MCHUGH, SECRETARY OF THE ARMY: He was undergoing a variety of treatment and diagnoses for mental health conditions ranging from depression to anxiety to some sleep disturbance. He was prescribed a number of drugs to address those, including Ambien.


O'REILLY: It was worth noting that psychotropic drugs are flooding American. There are almost 50 million prescriptions force Xanax; almost 44 million for Ambien almost 25 million for Prozac.

Joining us now from Charleston, South Carolina Alesandra Rain co- founder of the Point of Return, an addiction retreatment center; here in the studio Dr. Gail Saltz, a psychiatrist. So first of all why all the drugs? I mean this is an amazing amount of prescriptions.

GAIL SALTZ, M.D., CLINICAL PSYCHIATRIST: It is. And personally it's because there are many, many people struggling with depression anxiety. I mean right now 6.7 percent of American adults have depression.

O'REILLY: 6.7?

SALTZ: 6.7; 18 percent have anxiety disorders. More than that have sleep difficulties. So there are a lot of people struggling with these things. But I will also say that sometimes these drugs are overprescribed for people for things that they shouldn't be described for.


SALTZ: For sadness or for worries and so on.

O'REILLY: Yes but it's just a bad day and you starting to pop the pills.

SALTZ: Exactly, exactly by people who shouldn't be prescribing them.

O'REILLY: All right and it's an easy way to get out of your funk the Ambien -- that-- that's basically a sleep device.

SALTZ: It is a sleep medication.


SALTZ: It is non-addictive sleep medication which is why it's so commonly used. It is a common pill.

O'REILLY: how do people know it's non-addictive? How do you know?

SALTZ: It's physiologically. I mean I'm telling you that --

O'REILLY: Because if you don't sleep and you take it and then you can't go to sleep and you don't.

SALTZ: I'm not saying psychologically people won't feel like they need it.

O'REILLY: Right.

SALTZ: I am saying that physiologically as opposed to older sleep medication would actually made you go through withdrawal or actually sometimes unfortunately (inaudible) things like Xanax and Ativan are used for sleep. Those are addictive and not as and more of a problem than taking Ambien.

O'REILLY: Now Miss Rain you deal with people who get into trouble on prescription drug and that's exploding thing here I read today that more people are killed in overdoses of prescription drugs than die in traffic accidents now -- about 17,000 Americans every year. So this thing is really getting out of control.


O'REILLY: From your experience, a guy, you know, like Lopez who is obviously under doctor's care, he is he getting all these prescriptions. Can that help him or is there a down side that the medical community should make everybody aware of.

RAIN: Well I think prescription drugs are completely overprescribed today. I mean, I have helped people in I think 73 countries at this point. And they all complain and you know, of the side effects and the withdrawals that are horrible. They're very addictive. Ambien is incredibly addictive. And so I have to say that.

O'REILLY: Well you're saying it's addictive psychologically like marijuana but the doctor says it's not physically addictive. When you stop taking it you don't shake and throw up like you do with heroin.

RAIN: Well they won't be able to sleep, when I was on Ambien I know this one firsthand and it's horribly addictive -- very challenging times.

O'REILLY: Yes psychological. All right.

RAIN: Sure I think you're splitting hairs when you try to say that it's psychological versus physical. So I think that it actually can exasperate any other mental issues that are going on. Sure.

O'REILLY: Now is there -- is there more stress today than there was, say, 30 years ago? I mean, with this explosion of drugs being prescribed you would think is it worse now than it was 30 years ago, is it more stress in America?

SALTZ: You know I think stress fills up whatever vacuum that you have going on. I don't know that we could say it's because there is more stress. I think we are better at diagnosis. We're more willing as a country to talk about mental health issues so that people go in.

O'REILLY: And we are more willing to take drugs.

SALTZ: And we're definitely more willing to take drugs and were less tolerant of uncomfortable feeling of we're less willing to -- we want a quick fix. That's the problem -- we want a quick fix.

O'REILLY: All right. Less willing to tough it out.

SALTZ: Yes we're not will to say hey maybe we have to do things about our sleep like at a regular time and so on so we sleep better instead of just popping a pill.

O'REILLY: Isn't it -- isn't it about gratification? I mean if you are not feeling well. Everybody else is. I want to feel better too that kind of thing.

SALTZ: Well that's part of it and it's like I said it's an unwillingness to do -- to maybe go into therapy and do hard work. It's like what can you give me right now so that I can feel better.

O'REILLY: All right last question and I'm just going to wrap it up. You both said that it's overprescribed. That these drugs are being overprescribed because it's easy for the doctors do that you know here somebody come in and I'm not feeling well, I don't sleep. And then they go Ok, boom here.


O'REILLY: See you. $150 bucks. Is that what we are looking at here?

SALTZ: That's the problem some of the times. But I also don't want to discount the fact and it maybe what at stake here. There are people who have serious depression. PTSD, many returning veterans and they really do need the treatment.

O'REILLY: Absolutely and certainly this guy in Fort Hood was one of those. All right Miss Rain my question for you is are you seeing a different kind of person? Is there more stress in society based upon your rehab efforts with these people?

RAIN: I think the prevalence to give pills is so common that I don't think any other types of therapies are even offered. And it's really just one pill there's generally a cocktail. And I think when we look, when we get the toxicology reports of this shooter we're going to find the other cocktail in his system and that's what I'm seeing more and more.

O'REILLY: Yes. All right ladies. I've got to say to the audience I've never taken a drug on my life ever, of any kind because I just early on said you know I'm going out the way I came in and you know, I will tough it out. And I think.

SALTZ: There are other good treatments.

O'REILLY: Yes and I don't think anybody on earth would want to see me on drugs. Do you -- I don't think so.

SALTZ: Probably not.

O'REILLY: I would be in a penitentiary and that would not be good. Ladies thanks very much.

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