U.K. Antidepressant Prescriptions Rise 9% in 2011


Almost 50 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in the U.K. in 2011, a rise of 9% over 2010. The increase is attributed, at least in part, to more patients looking to GPs for medication, and an increased willingness of GPs to prescribe to them. But the existence of effective alternatives and questions about antidepressants’ efficacy and side effects cause some criticism that doctors are too eager to prescibe.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. I am not surprised at all that antidepressant prescriptions have gone up in the UK. It is the only way a GP has got of getting rid of patients in 5 mn. There is also that illusion that a pill will solve all your problems without you having to make an effort. The myth that depression is an illness doesn’t help people to reflect on why things have gone wrong and that may be they need to change their attitude and their unrealistic expectations,learn how to be resilient,enjoy the small things in life, not burn their candle at both ends etc…

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    • Let’s not forget that it is all socialized medicine over there. And so the people who want the drugs don’t even have to pay for it, they can transfer the cost onto their neighbors, so there is no incentive for this to slow down. If it grew 9% last year, expect it to grow 100% in a decade.

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      • That’s pretty offensive – NHS patients don’t transfer the cost on to their neighbours, it’s simply a service funded by general taxation like many others. Plus there is a small fee for each prescription. The incentive for it to slow down is that it costs a lot of taxpayer money for very little benefit (or none beyond placebo, plus harms) – but not as much as providing proper mental health services and economic inclusiveness, I guess. Also the NHS and many doctors are hand in glove with Big Pharma.

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  2. This is bothersome to me because the U.K. hasn’t had all the lies and direct-to-consumer advertising that the U.S. has had.

    This presents the very scary possibility that it’s not just Big Pharma pushing these drugs. Perhaps the would-be consumer’s are the biggest pushers – pushing their doctors to prescribe them.

    I think it was in that 60 minutes segment recently on antidepressants that they mentioned that they even prescribe diet and exercise over there where people can get free access to fitness clubs with personal trainers, and if that is true then there really could only be one reason for this increase: patients are demanding.

    What happens when patients begin demanding ketamine? That’s being studied for it’s use as a antidepressant now. Will doctors one day be prescribing it because their demanding patients have wised up to the fact that serotonin enhancing drugs don’t work?

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  3. I sometimes feel that learned helplessness plays a large part in all of this skyrocketing of depression in groups of people. The Japanese language never had a word for depression. Japanese culture had a deep appreciation for the emotion of sadness and an entire period of their hisorical culture was built around this appreciation. This appreciation valued uderstanding that life is short and beauty is ephemeral and it’s important to stop and smell the flowers because tomorrow they probably won’t be there. It made it possible for a poem like this to be written:

    Although the winds still blow,
    as in autumns past;
    I am no longer the same.
    Dew on my sleeve……….. Hon’ami Koetsu

    Sadness, emotional pain, and loss had an appropriate place to play in Japanese culture.

    And then the drug companies saw more billions of dollars to be raked into their coffers and so they took a number of their lapdog psychistrists, went to Japan, and convinced the Japanese people that they were suffering from depression and they needed the wonderful antidepressants. Now, Japanese society is caught in the same throes of the mental illness epidemic that we’re struggling with here in America. Why are we so willing to see ourselves as ill. We never used to view ourselves in this manner. My mother had a very traumatic childhood. As a child I could tell that something affected her and seemed to make her sad. However, she never allowed her sadness to interfere with having a very rich life in which she raised her kids, worked outside the home, and had one of the most wonderful vegetable gardens in the state. She refused to label herself as “depressed” and went on with her life without having to pop any pills to make her happy. She grew up during the Great Depression and was a woman of great courage and character. She refused to be labeled with depression.

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