Antidepressant prescriptions in Scotland up by 48% in decade

Scottish Conservatives mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells said there was an increase in "dependence" on the use of the medication in mental health treatment. Picture: stock image
Scottish Conservatives mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells said there was an increase in "dependence" on the use of the medication in mental health treatment. Picture: stock image
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The number of people prescribed antidepressants in Scotland has risen by 48% in the past 10 years.

According to recent figures from the Information Services Division, the number of people prescribed the drugs in 2018-19 was 936,269 - up from 633,762 in 2009-10.

Scottish Conservatives mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells said there was an increase in "dependence" on the use of the medication in mental health treatment.

Along with an increase in the number of prescriptions, the amount of daily doses hit almost 300 million last year.

Doses have risen by more than 86%, from 154,754,137 to 288,102,105.

Ms Wells said: "There will always be a place for the use of antidepressants in the treatment of mental illness but these figures demonstrate a staggering increase in dependence on these drugs.

"The SNP's attempts to reduce antidepressant use have been completely unsuccessful.

"At the same time as this shocking increase in antidepressant use, mental health waiting times, particularly for young people, are also out of control.

"The worrying difference between antidepressant usage in women and men must be understood and addressed."

She added: "We know that Scotland is in the grip of a mental health crisis yet, by their own measure, the SNP is totally failing mental health patients.

"The SNP must fulfil their promises - reduce waiting times for mental health patients and ensure that GPs can prescribe a range of mental health interventions, not simply rely on antidepressants."

Poverty link

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon called for more to be done to help those in poorer areas, who have been found to take more antidepressants than those in more well off areas.

According to the ISD statistics, people in the most deprived classification of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants.

In the poorest communities, 85,222,641 doses were handed out to 258,813 people.

The number of patients and doses fall incrementally where patients are less deprived.

Ms Lennon said: "Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of and can affect anyone but it's worrying that Scots living in the poorest communities are more likely to have poor mental health and be prescribed medication.

"More must be done to tackle the wealth inequalities that are contributing to stubborn health inequalities.

"This includes investing in prevention and mental well-being and also supporting people with mental illness to live well."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "We continue to work to reduce stigma around the treatment of mental health, including the use of antidepressants.

"People with mental illness should expect the same standard of care as people with physical illness and should receive medication if they need it.

"All medicines are prescribed based on clinical need and should be discussed with patients within the context of their long-term recovery."

He added: "We are also improving access to alternatives, such as psychological therapies, that increase choice and best accommodate patient preferences.

"Prescriptions should be reviewed regularly to achieve the best possible health outcomes and ongoing support should be provided to patients who are prescribed medicines.

"The Chief Medical Officer for Scotland is currently convening a working group of experts to examine prescribing trends, including antidepressants, in Scotland."