'Happy pill' prescriptions hit record levels

The number of people relying on antidepressants may be on the rise, as new NHS figures reveal that prescriptions of so-called 'happy pills' are on the rise.

antidepressant prescriptions hit record high

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According to figures from the NHS Information Centre, almost 50 million prescriptions for antidepressants were handed out by GPs last year - up nine per cent on the previous 12 months.

These record numbers of prescriptions came at a cost of £270 million to the NHS, an increase of more than a fifth compared to 2010.

Experts say the reason for the rise in numbers may be down to the fact that the stigma surrounding depression is ebbing away.

But critics have suggested that doctors are too quick to prescribe medication rather than referring patients for counselling or other forms of treatment.

The Daily Mail reports that evidence suggests one-to-one or group therapy sessions are just as effective as commonly-used antidepressants such as Prozac and Seroxat, and treat the root of the problem rather than just masking the effects.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Health insisted that "talking therapies" were increasingly being offered as an alternative to medication, and told the paper: "The rise in prescriptions of antidepressants does not necessarily mean a rise in patients.

"For example, shorter but more frequent prescriptions allow medication to be reviewed and can cut down wastage.

"People are becoming more aware of depression as a treatable condition and doctors are also more alert to its signs and symptoms. The most suitable care for patients is a clinical decision."

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