Antidepressant Use Doubles in UK in Past Decade, Even Greater Increase Last Year

But tonight doctors warned that some people are being
put on the drugs unnecessarily, especially those with milder symptoms of
depression, partly because there is too little access to “talking therapies”,
which use discussion rather than drugs to tackle problems.

“I’m concerned that too many people are being
prescribed antidepressants and not being given counselling and cognitive
behaviour therapy, because access to those therapies, while it is improving, is
still patchy,” said Professor Steve Field, the chairman of the Royal College of
General Practitioners, which represents the UK‘s family doctors.

“More people are being diagnosed with depression, but
many of them would be treated better by having access to talking therapies,
especially those with mild to moderate depression. I’m concerned that these
people are being treated with medication unnecessarily,” he added.

GPs felt “cornered” into giving patients
antidepressants because of a lack of alternatives, he said.

“Talking therapies are just a good [as medication]
for treating mild depression, and CBT can be just as good for more serious
depression. But the provision for these therapies hasn’t been good,” said Field.
However, more GPs were gaining more of a choice between tablets and talking
treatments, he said.

Antidepressant use rises as recession feeds wave of worry

Prescriptions have doubled in decade,
NHS figures show, with doctors warning drugs are covering for counselling
shortage

Seroxat antidepressant pills.
Seroxat [Paxil] antidepressant pills.
Photograph: Jack Sullivan/Alamy

The number of antidepressants prescribed by the NHS
has almost doubled in the last decade, and rose sharply last year as the
recession bit, figures reveal.

The health service issued 39.1m prescriptions for drugs to tackle depression in England in 2009, compared
with 20.1m in 1999 – a 95% jump. Doctors handed out 3.18m more prescriptions
last year than in 2008, almost twice the annual rise seen in preceding years,
according to previously unpublished statistics released by the NHS’s Business
Services Authority.

The increase is thought to be due in part to improved
diagnosis, reduced stigma around mental ill-health and rising worries about jobs
and finances triggered by the economic downturn.

But tonight doctors warned that some people are being
put on the drugs unnecessarily, especially those with milder symptoms of
depression, partly because there is too little access to “talking therapies”,
which use discussion rather than drugs to tackle problems.

“I’m concerned that too many people are being
prescribed antidepressants and not being given counselling and cognitive
behaviour therapy, because access to those therapies, while it is improving, is
still patchy,” said Professor Steve Field, the chairman of the Royal College of
General Practitioners, which represents the UK‘s family doctors.

“More people are being diagnosed with depression, but
many of them would be treated better by having access to talking therapies,
especially those with mild to moderate depression. I’m concerned that these
people are being treated with medication unnecessarily,” he added.

GPs felt “cornered” into giving patients
antidepressants because of a lack of alternatives, he said.

“Talking therapies are just a good [as medication]
for treating mild depression, and CBT can be just as good for more serious
depression. But the provision for these therapies hasn’t been good,” said Field.
However, more GPs were gaining more of a choice between tablets and talking
treatments, he said.

Peter Byrne, the director of public education at the
Royal College of Psychiatrists, whose 12,450 members include the UK‘s 6,300
consultant psychiatrists, echoed Field’s concern. It said it was unsurprising
that prescriptions were rising after a decade of investment in mental health services. “The optimistic view is that
more people are being uncovered and treated. My concern is that people with mild
depression should not be put on antidepressants,” he said.

Consultant psychiatrist Tim Kendall, director of the
National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health, which drafts NHS guidance on
the drugs, said: “Antidepressants are offered too frequently in primary care
because the waiting lists for alternative treatments are too long. Doctors need
to think hard about putting people on these drugs because they can be hard to
get off and have significant side-effects.”

The NHS does not record how many people take
antidepressants, but up to one in six people suffers from some form of
depression during their life. The recession has produced greater demand for NHS
help with mental health problems.

In 2009 all of us – whether we work in general
practice, general hospitals or specialist services – are seeing an increase in

referrals from the recession. The stresses of the downturn are the last straw
for many people,” said Byrne.

The Labour government invested hundreds of millions
of pounds in “talking therapies”, in an effort to help jobless people with
chronic problems get back into work and couples negotiate relationship
difficulties. The Lib-Con coalition has promised to continue prioritising such
treatments. But Byrne disputed claims about long waiting times.

The falling cost of antidepressants may have an
effect. Ten years ago each prescription cost £16, but this has fallen to just £6
today, which means the NHS spend has fallen, from £315m in 1999 to £230m last

year.

Dr Hugh Griffiths, the government’s mental health
tsar, said that while the causes of, and risk factors for, depression were
complex “the recession can have an impact. A rise in prescriptions might also
reflect a greater awareness and willingness to seek support and better diagnosis
by GPs”.

“Psychological therapies, which can be offered
alongside or as an alternative to medication, provide choice in treatment. We
are closely looking at how we can improve access”, said Griffiths.

A survey in March for the mental health charity Mind,
which asked people if they had sought help for work-related stress since the
downturn began, found 7% had begun medical treatment for depression and 5% had
started counselling.

A spokeswoman for Mind, Alison Cobb, said the fact
antidepressants are now licensed for use in a wider range of conditions, such as
social anxiety and post traumatic stress, was also a
factor.

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A Note of Caution About Psychiatric Medications for Symptoms of Depression

“I now believe my daughter died as a direct result of taking antidepressant medications.”

I am a psychologist whose profession makes liberal use of antidepressant and other psychiatric medications for treating symptoms of depression and depressive disorders. I am also a mother who lost a cherished daughter to suicide after she became dependent on the use of antidepressant medications.

When our eldest daughter, Morgan Leslie Segal, graduated from college in 1991, she was a healthy, active young woman who traveled independently all over the world. However, issues with shyness coupled with a desire to gain greater self-assurance led her into therapy with a licensed psychologist. Six months later, following a devastating break from a man whom she adored, she was given antipsychotic medication to help her cope with her grief. She later became depressed and was given a popular antidepressant concurrently.

Over the next five years she became increasingly withdrawn, detached from her surroundings, and confused in her thinking. Whenever she attempted to withdraw from the medications, she became anxious and confused and was encouraged by her psychologist to resume the medications. While medicated, she made a long series of unhealthy decisions that adversely affected her well-being. In 1996, at the age of 29, my daughter committed suicide while still taking antidepressant medications under the regular supervision of her therapist and psychiatrist.

I have since carefully studied the use of medications for depression. Based on research that includes findings from psychiatric journals, research papers, a UK warning to avoid the use of a popular SSRI antidepressant, and details of a current FDA investigation linking suicide to this same medication, I have formed several conclusions (my references are listed below):

The “symptoms of mental illness” — confusion, withdrawal, and sleep disorder — that Morgan Leslie exhibited after she began taking psychiatric medications
were caused by the drugs she took.

The anxiety and confusion she experienced when tried to gradually withdraw from her medications were the result of a dependency on the drugs.
The method for suicide my daughter used matches the suicidal patterns of some SSRI users described in the references. I now believe my daughter died as a direct result of taking antidepressant medications.

This is my story, and I don’t mean to imply that no one should ever take antidepressant medications, but in light of alternatives that are safer, I question their efficacy. A substantial body of research links symptoms of low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety to emotional trauma. Trauma based treatments use non-drug methods to repair the neural disruptions and accompanying symptoms. I believe that if our daughter had been helped to understand and to use her core feelings, rather than encouraged to blunt her emotions with brain altering medications, she would still be alive.

The stakes are high. 20 million Americans use antidepressant medications and spend billions of dollars on them. HMO’s favor the use of prescribed drugs over long term therapy. The theory that mental illness is corrected by mind- and mood-altering medications avoids the stigma that comes from placing blame for mental illness on patients and/or their families.

Once you are aware of the possible dangers associated with the use of such medications and are aware of effective alternatives, talk with the professionals who are advising you, and make an informed decision about your course of treatment. Read the complete text of these concerns and warnings in the links below. My experiences and this information are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice but may help you with questions for your doctor

Also, it is essential that patients taking any psychiatric medication do not suddenly discontinue use of the drug because of the risk of withdrawal reactions. Any changes must take place under medical supervision.

By Jeanne Segal Ph.D.
http://www.ktvb.com/sharedcontent/northwest/specialreport/stories/NW_092303WABfamilystatementJK.2633012d.html

This is Survivor Story number 40.
Total number of stories in current database is 77

9/23/2003

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