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Doctors admit prescribing too many drugs for depression

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Doctors admit prescribing too many drugs for depression

ALAN MacDERMID
March 30 2004
Source: The Herald

MOST GPs surveyed in Scotland admit to over-prescribing anti-depressants such as Prozac and Seroxat to their patients, according to a new report.
Four out of five of the doctors said they were forced to prescribe the drugs to patients with depression, anxiety, and stress because treatments they would have preferred to give were not available in their area.

A quarter said making psychological therapies and social care to help with milder conditions more available was one of the most pressing priorities for the NHS. But 76% said they prescribed more anti-depressants now than five years ago.

The research, by Dr Foster, the independent medical research specialist, was commissioned by Norwich Union Healthcare. It follows growing concerns about the long-term side-effects of anti-depressant drugs, particularly when taken by children, and fears they may make some patients suicidal.

This latest study found that 81% of the 250 GPs questioned in the UK openly admitted to over-prescribing antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat. The figure in Scotland was 84%.

Last year, the Department of Health said the majority of the most commonly prescribed type of anti-depressants, selective serotonin reuptake in-hibitors (SSRI), should not be given to people under 18. Only one SSRI, Prozac, was recommended to be prescribed to youngsters as it was found that the benefits outweighed the risks.
Depression is thought to affect one in five people at some stage in their life, with many visiting their doctor expecting a prescription for antidepressants.

The survey also revealed that, throughout the UK, a third of people are either suffering from a mild or moderate mental health condition, or know someone who is. It also found that 17% have sought help or advice from a health care professional for mild anxiety, depression, or stress.

Men were more likely than women to keep quiet at work about their condition because they felt it would affect their career.
Although more women than men had sought help on mental health issues like mild depression, panic attacks or anxiety, men were more likely to have visited their GP regarding dependency on prescribed or illegal drugs, or alcoholism.

Jim Thomson, chief executive of the charity, Depression Alliance, said: "Anti-depressants are a valuable form of treatment for many people affected by depression.

"But these medicines work best in combination with other therapies – therapies that are largely unavailable in many areas, forcing GPs to prescribe in isolation of them.
"We want people to be aware of the many alternative types of treatment available, such as self-help and talking therapies, and we encourage them to look at all the options available to them to help combat their illness."

Norwich Union Healthcare has created an online information guide which allows people to search for mental health services in the UK. Dr Doug Wright said: "Our information guide gives people the opportunity to educate themselves on the mental health services available in their local area, and beyond."
The online service is available at http://www.personalhealthmanager.co.uk. National Depression Week takes place from April 19 in efforts to raise awareness of depression and fight the stigma around it.



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