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Many Swiss feel stressed but few take drugs

Are pills the answer to stress? Keystone

Only 4% of people in Switzerland have taken psychoactive substances – prescription drugs or other – to increase performance at work or in their studies or to improve their mood when there had been no medical reason to do so, according to a poll.

Although this percentage was small, more than a third of respondents said they had felt stressed or very stressed during the previous 12 months. Those who reported taking substances also reported higher levels of stress at work or in their studies.

The representative online survey, conducted by the Swiss Research Institute of Public Health and Addiction of the University of Zurich, asked more than 10,000 people aged 15-74 who were either in education or in the work force about their behaviour.

Of those who take such drugs in Switzerland, most get them through their doctors or via family or friends. Practically no one gets them from dealers or over the internet, co-author Michael Schaub, scientific director of the institute, told

The behaviour of people in Switzerland contrasts with the situation in the United States, where there is a much larger black market for prescription drugs and many people also use the internet, Schaub explained.

There are also some drugs – like Adderall, an amphetamine used to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – which are available at pharmacies in the US but hard to get hold of in Switzerland.

Changing public attitudes

The poll found that substances designed to treat ADHD were more likely to be taken by people aged 15-24, while most antidepressants were taken by people aged 35-45 in order to lift their mood.

Schaub said attitudes seemed to be changing among the general public, with people more likely to go for a quick fix by taking pills rather than trying to change the conditions causing the stress or going into stress reduction training that requires a certain time commitment.

The poll found that people were ready to continue taking substances when they felt they needed them, whether or not they suffered side effects, Schaub said.

Nor did they worry about the long-term effects. But he said this was reasonable, since on the whole they only took them occasionally, in “emergency” situations, such as preparing for exams.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR