Record numbers in UK on ‘happy pills’.
Psychiatrists warning over soaring use of pills in ‘depressed Britain’.
Britons are taking anti-depressants in greater quantities than ever before, new figures have disclosed, with a near 25 per cent rise in prescriptions in the last three years alone.
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 warned that many Britons were becoming hooked on the drugs and 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 anti-depressants 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 for access to counsellors.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) also recommends that anti-depressant prescriptions are reviewed every six months – but doctors warn that many patients now end up taking the drugs for years, and even for whole life times.
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 in reality it stores up more problems than it solves,” she said.