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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 November 2007, 13:56 GMT
Rise in use of anti-depressants
Stressed woman
One in five will be affected by depression in their lifetime

Prescriptions issued in Scotland for anti-depressants have risen more than four-fold in less than 15 years, an NHS report has revealed.

NHS Quality Improvement Scotland said for every 1,000 people there were 85 daily doses of the drugs dispensed in 2006, compared with 19 doses in 1992.

Dr Harpreet Kohli said the increase was partly due to new drugs with fewer side effects than previous versions.

But a mental health charity said drugs are being prescribed inappropriately.

The report found that more women than men consulted their GP with the condition.

The rates also rose with levels of social deprivation.

Dr Kohli, a medical adviser for NHS Quality Improvement Scotland, said the rise was partly due to a new generation of drugs.

"Part of this rise is due to the introduction of the latest generation of anti-depressants, providing a treatment option with fewer side-effects," he said.

He also said it was likely that "a range of social and medical issues" contributed to this rise.

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However Shona Neil, chief executive of the Scottish Association for Mental Health, said: "There are a lot of people being prescribed anti-depressants inappropriately.

"GPs are in a difficult position in that they have very short consultation times - they don't have enough time to get to the root of problems and patients are looking for a quick fix.

"It's important that there's access to alternative routes of referral, such as counselling, cognitive therapy and even exercise."

Ms Neil dismissed claims that the new anti-depressants carried fewer side effects.

"We did research five years which showed that a high percentage of patients who had been prescribed one of the newer drugs still experienced unwanted side effects," she said.

"There has been a slight downturn in prescribing drugs like Seroxat, after media publicity about the possible side effects.

"Social problems are a bigger factor in the increase than the new drugs - these figures show a huge cry for help from people from deprived backgrounds."

Shona Neil
Ms Neil said there should be a focus on early intervention

She said the figures highlighted the need for more work to reduce the stigma of mental health problems.

"People should be seeing a GP before their condition worsens," she said.

"That would mean other interventions could be tried before medication."

The Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Ross Finnie, urged the Scottish Government to make mental health a national clinical priority.

He said: "Growth in prescriptions suggests a correlated increase in the amount of psychiatric illness.

"It is interesting to note that this has also been connected to increases in the levels of social deprivation.

"The Liberal Democrat Party is clear that there is an imperative to tackle poverty and social deprivation and at the same time to give a much higher level of priority to the treatment of mental illness."

Psychiatric hospital

NHS Quality Improvement Scotland provides advice on effective clinical practice and also monitors NHS performance against certain standards.

Depression affects about one in five people at some point in their lives.

The report revealed that only a small proportion of people with the condition were treated in a psychiatric hospital, and electroconvulsive therapy was given to a very small percentage of those with severe depression.

But when this treatment was administered, improvements were seen in 93% of patients.



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07 Mar 07 |  Scotland
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30 Aug 06 |  Scotland

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