More than one in 10 Scots 'on anti-depressants'
- 27 September 2011
- From the section Scotland
The number of anti-depressants being prescribed to people in Scotland is continuing to increase, according to the latest figures.
Statistics from the Scottish government suggest that more than one in 10 of the population are on the drugs.
In the last financial year a total of 4.6 million anti-depressants were prescribed in Scotland, up more than 350,000 on the previous year.
Labour accused the SNP of "ditching" efforts to cut anti-depressant use.
It is estimated 11.3% of Scots, aged over 15, take the drugs on a daily basis.
The rate of growth in the prescribing of anti-depressants increased from an annual growth of 7.6% in 2009/10 to 8.1% in 2010/11.
The continued rise in anti-depressant use comes despite a Scottish government pledge to reduce it.
In 2007 the SNP said it wanted to bring the yearly increase down to zero, and then by a further 10% each year.
Scottish Labour's public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson, who is a fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatry, said: "The fact that the number of Scots on anti-depressants is the highest level since records began - with more than one in 10 Scots now on the drugs - is extremely troubling.
"Back in 2007 the SNP set a target to bring the use of anti-depressants under control, but when the going got tough the SNP ditched the target."
"I know from my experience as a doctor that mental illness can be devastating for those who experience it. However, for all but the most serious cases, the daily use of drugs should be a last resort.
Dr Simpson said there needed to be a greater focus on early intervention and other alternative therapies.
The latest Scottish government statistics also showed a variation in the percentage of the population using anti-depressants across Scotland, with 8.3% of people living in Shetland taking the drugs compared with 12.9% in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Five health boards - Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Arran, Forth Valley and Tayside - had rates of use above the Scottish average.
GPs wrote the vast majority of those prescriptions with the remainder written by authorised prescribers such as nurses and dentists.
The figures also included prescriptions written in hospitals that were dispensed in the community, but exclude prescriptions dispensed within hospitals.
The Scottish Conservatives also criticised the SNP for its "failure" to meet promised targets for tackling people's reliance on anti-depressants.
Mary Scanlon MSP said: "It is scandalous that more than 10% of people aged 15 and over, a figure which therefore includes many young people, are reliant on anti-depressants.
"Investment in mental health with early diagnosis and early intervention is critical to get patients the support and treatment they need - when they need it."
The Scottish Liberal Democrats said the government's mental health strategy, currently out for consultation, needed to explore the "burgeoning" problem of anti-depressant use.
The party's health spokeswoman Alison McInnes MSP said: "While anti-depressants have a role to play, we need to see a much more holistic approach to mental health problems in Scotland.
"We need to be confident that doctors have the time to explore alternatives to anti-depressants before reaching for the prescription pad."
Further prescription statistics, just published by the government, show a big fall in the number of drugs being prescribed to tackle obesity in Scotland.
In 2010/2011 the number fell to 95,000, a decrease of almost 30% on the previous year.
The reduction is estimated to have saved the NHS more than £1m. A separate survey suggests 65% of people in Scotland are overweight and 28% are obese.