French Pop Anxiety Pills After Paris Attacks, Trauma Data Show

French people, already among the world’s biggest antidepressant takers, are popping more anxiety pills after the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.

The consumption of anxiolytics, drugs that reduce anxiety and stress, surged by more than 18 percent between Jan. 9 and 13, according to data compiled by Celtipharm SA, a Brittany-based company that collects daily drug sales data from a sample of over 4,800 pharmacies across the country.

“Our historical data shows this is the first time we can link an event to a pharmaceutical consequence,” Amandine Galliou, a spokeswoman for Celtipharm, said in an interview.

Three distinct yet connected attacks in and near Paris -- the worst such assault in France in more than half a century -- claimed the lives of 17 people before police killed the three gunmen. People across France marched in rallies that drew the largest crowds in the country’s history on Jan. 11 to honor the victims.

“We had never measured this type of phenomenon,” said Dr. Patrick Guerin, the chief executive officer of Celtipharm.

The only other such case was a surge in iodine sales after the nuclear incident at Fukushima, Japan, in March 2011, he told Le Figaro daily. After the terrorist attacks in Toulouse in 2012 that killed seven people, doctors saw an increase in consultations and prescriptions in and around the city, France Info radio reported today.

While the French aren’t the biggest consumers of anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants, they are the most likely to suffer from a “major depressive episode” in their lifetimes, more than Americans and twice as often as Germans, according to a World Health Organization report published in 2011.

The report shows French consumption of antidepressants is lower than the OECD 30-nation group average. Iceland, Austria, Denmark and Norway have the biggest consumers of such drugs, the report shows.

The use of antidepressants rose in the U.K. during the financial crisis with an extra 12.5 million pills prescribed in 2012 than in 2007, a Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation survey showed.