NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Third Of French Are On Psychoactive Drugs, Agency Says

A drug safety agency says that 32 percent of French citizens are regular or occasional users of prescription drugs such as antidepressants and sleeping pills. France's National Drug Safety Agency warns that the pills are prescribed too often.

"France has long been known as having a high prescription drug use rate — numerous studies have put France among the world's top consumers of antidepressants, for example," reports France 24. "But these latest figures have sparked fresh warnings by health experts over the nation's pill-popping habit."

In 2012, author Guy Hugnet made headlines with his book investigating the French predilection for antidepressants, tranquilizers and related drugs. He noted that the French have trust in the pills — and that they'll visit more than one doctor to get as many as they want.

"We are world champions, per capita," Hugnet declared in an interview back then, citing statistics that more than 1 in 5 French citizens had taken psychotropic drugs.

The recent government study was co-authored by professor Bernard Begaud, a medical pharmacologist who tells Le Parisien that the high rate of psychoactive drug use in France is "a true public health problem" that needs to be addressed.

"These drugs are too often prescribed and over too long a duration," France 24 quotes the report as saying. Its authors warn of possible side effects, noting that "previously established health risks remain while new risks are emerging."

French medical officials are also concerned that drugs such as benzodiazepines, which target anxiety and sleep disorders, could have adverse effects when they're mixed with other medications, according to France 24.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.