Reverse Rising Rate of Antidepressant Prescriptions, Urge Experts

Psychotherapist Dr. James Davies warned that ’the over medicalisation of our everyday lives has helped fuel over-prescribing.’
Reverse Rising Rate of Antidepressant Prescriptions, Urge Experts
A bottle of Effexor antidepressant pills in Miami, Fla., on March 23, 2004. FDA asked makers of popular antidepressants to add or strengthen suicide-related warnings on their labels as well as the possibility of worsening depression especially at the beginning of treatment or when the doses are increased or decreased. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Owen Evans
12/5/2023
Updated:
12/5/2023
0:00

A group of experts and MPs have called for the government to commit to a reversal in the rising rate of prescribing of antidepressants.

In an article published in the British Medical Journal on Tuesday, a wide range of health experts and MPs have warned that intervention is needed as the growth of antidepressants is resulting in huge exposure to unnecessary harm.

Some of the co-authors of the article include the secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence Dr. James Davies, Professor of Critical and Social Psychiatry Joanna Moncrieff and Conservative MP Danny Kruger.

The article said that over the past decade, antidepressant prescriptions have almost doubled in England, rising from 47.3 million in 2011 to 85.6 million in 2022/2023.

Over 8.6 million adults in England are now prescribed them annually (nearly 20 percent of adults), with prescriptions set to rise over the next decade.

Expanded the Definition of Mental Disorder

Dr. James Davies told The Epoch Times that we “really need to be rethinking our over-reliance on these medications.”

Dr. Davies, who is an associate professor of medical anthropology and psychology at the University of Roehampton, added that since the 1990s, warned that we “have medicalised more and more human experiences.”

“We’ve expanded the definition of mental disorder to encompass evermore domains of human experience. And this has, in turn, created a large market for psychopharmaceutical interventions, because the more people who are being medicalised and diagnosed as suffering from internal conditions, the more people need to be treated and the treatments governments have preferred since the 90s, have been psychopharmaceutical in origin,” he added.

“The over-medicalisation of our everyday lives has really helped fuel over-prescribing,” he said.

“The trouble here, however, is that most people who are presenting at primary care for emotional difficulties aren’t suffering from internal biological disorders in any verifiable sense, they’re suffering from natural and normal, albeit painful,  human reactions to the difficult life, They’re living, to the difficult circumstances in which they have become caught up, circumstances that these pills were never designed to treat,” he added.

“So we need to start doing things differently. We need to start to pull back on the over medicalisation and over prescribing and begin to institute more social and psychological alternatives,” he said.

The article noted that rates of prescribing to patients with mild and moderate depression remain high. For example, one UK study showed that 58 percent of people taking antidepressants for more than two years failed to meet the criteria for any psychiatric diagnosis.

It added that the average duration of time for which a person takes an antidepressant has doubled between the mid-2000s and 2017, with around half of patients now classed as long-term users.

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have similar rates of antidepressant prescribing.

It noted that rising long-term use is associated with many adverse effects, with withdrawal effects experienced by around half of the patients, with up to half of those describing their symptoms as “severe.”

A substantial proportion of these are experiencing withdrawal for many weeks, months, or even years.

Earlier this year, a major investigation found that despite hundreds of thousands of people being given antidepressants to manage long-term chronic pain, there was “no reliable evidence” for their long-term safety or reliability.

Downplayed

Dr. Davies said the adverse effects have been downplayed for decades.

“We now have 1,000s of patients online, supporting each other through difficult adverse reactions, and most of these people are experiencing dependency and withdrawal issues and support each other online in the absence of the NHS providing dedicated support,” he said.

He added that there are also groups for people who are suffering from sexual dysfunction or the consequences of taking these medications.

Campaigners who have been damaged by anti-depressants welcomed the move.

PSSD Network raises awareness of post-SSRI sexual dysfunction (PSSD), a condition that is brought on by taking antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
PSSD manifests itself after taking the drug and lasts in some cases for decades with no cure for the condition. A sure sign of PSSD, which campaigners say gets mistakenly diagnosed for low libido, is genital numbing. Some say they feel their “soul has left their bodies” with a complete removal of any arousal response in the body.

“It’s great that this group of experts have called to try and curtail this growth,” Simon Wright from PSSD Network, who has the condition, told The Epoch Times.

“Because one of the main issues is the fact that patients aren’t given informed consent about the fact that they can be permanently harmed by these drugs in the form of conditions like PSSD, which has wrecked many lives and has led to many suicides,” he said.

An NHS spokesperson told The Epoch Times by email that it could not comment as “this is one” for the government’s health department.

The Epoch Times contacted The Department of Health and Social Care for comment.