UK Hooked on Happy Pills - The New Indian Express

UK Hooked on Happy Pills

Published: 20th April 2014 09:39 AM

Last Updated: 20th April 2014 09:39 AM

Britons are taking antidepressants in greater quantities than ever with a near 25 per cent rise in prescriptions in the past three years.

According to official NHS data, more than 53 million prescriptions were handed out for drugs such as Prozac and Seroxat in England last year - a record high, and a rise of 24.6 per cent since 2010.

It means the UK now has the seventh highest prescribing rate for antidepressants in the western world, with around four million Britons taking them each year - twice as many as a decade ago.

Experts suggested that increasing numbers were turning to medication in the wake of the credit crunch to treat anxiety disorders. But some psychiatrists said too many doctors were "medicalising" everyday sadness, or handing out pills because there were long waiting times to see a counsellor.

NHS guidance says antidepressants should not be offered as the first resort for people with mild to moderate depression, and says that such cases should instead be referred for "talking therapy" such as cognitive behavioural therapy.

Even when the drugs are prescribed, it is supposed to be in conjunction with counselling.

However, despite the Government's investment in the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, in some parts of the country people wait months to see counsellors.

Dr Joanna Moncrieff, an author on mental health drugs, and consultant psychiatrist at North East London NHS foundation trust, said she was concerned that society was becoming "dependent" on medication.

"Being depressed from time to time is a universal human experience. Diagnosing people with a medical disorder and prescribing a pill may appear to offer an easy answer, but it stores up more problems than it solves," she said.

"As a society, our dependence on antidepressants makes us less resilient and less resourceful in the face of the everyday challenges of modern living," she added.

Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation show that in the past decade, use of antidepressants has doubled in the UK, with 71 daily doses for every 1,000 people compared with 38 daily doses per 1,000 people a decade ago.

In France and Germany the current figure is 50 doses a day, and in Italy it is 42 doses a day.

Last year, a report by The Health and Social Care Information Centre revealed that in some parts of the UK - including Barnsley, Durham, Middlesbrough, Redcar, Salford and Sunderland - approximately one in six adults is prescribed antidepressants.

Doctors said busy GPs often felt "cornered" into providing the drugs because waiting times to see a counsellor were too long.

Sophie Corlett, from the mental health charity Mind, said: "The number of prescriptions for antidepressants issued in the UK has been rising for many years. These new figures show no sign of this trend slowing and we need to know why we are seeing persistent year-on-year increases."

She said more research was needed to understand exactly how many people are taking anti-depressants, for how long and whether they are receiving other treatment alongside.

"We know that people are more aware of other treatment options and many do not want to be treated with drugs but cannot, and should not have to, wait months for therapy," she said.

Jim Dobbin MP, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on tranquilliser addiction, said: "I am really concerned about this trend, there are serious problems with addiction to antidepressants. We need closer regulation of this - the pharmaceutical industry is very powerful and puts too much pressure on the medical profession to prescribe them"

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