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DSM-5 Might Promote More Off-Label Drug Prescriptions

This new revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, DSM-5, a first in almost 20 years, provides psychiatrists and psychologists with a common vocabulary for identifying mental and emotional diseases and syndromes. DSM-5 also created 15 new mental disorders, which might open the door to prescribing current drugs for off-label uses, a practice that carries with it significant Federal Drug Administration FDA fines.

These new disorders include expanded definitions of:

  • Depression
  • Premenstrual symptoms
  • Binge eating
  • Dementia
  • Caffeine withdrawal

By naming a new pathology, pharmaceutical companies are motivated to create a drug to cure the malady. In the meantime, drug companies are looking at their current stock of pills to determine whether any might be extended to other uses in order to initiate clinical trials.

The DSM-5 has been heavily criticized for opening the door to over-medication by taking ordinary emotional responses and turning them into treatment opportunities. That is, except for autism, whose definition was narrowed with the possibility of excluding many children from proper treatment and education opportunities.

Normal grief after the death of a loved one, when family, friends and community have an essential role, if lasting more than eight weeks, is now called “bereavement-associated” depression. There’s a pill for that. Excessive eating 12 times in three months, once called gluttony, is now called “binge eating disorder.” With a name comes a pill. Experimenting with drugs can be considered among hardcore addicts in the DSM-5. There’s a pill for that. And every aging baby boomer, whether they are at risk of developing dementia or not, might demand diagnosis and treatment for “minor neurocognitive disorder,” which currently has no treatment, other than for treating the underlying anxiety such an amorphous diagnosis can cause.

Off-label use of prescription drugs is illegal. If you or a loved one suspects improper use of prescription drugs, you should consult a knowledgeable attorney experienced in products liability and medical malpractice.