According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the use of antidepressants has dramatically increased over the past decade. Figures have revealed that in some countries doctors are writing prescriptions for antidepressants for more than one in 10 adults. European countries, Nordic countries and both Australia and Canada appear to be leading the trend.
Data from the US has uncovered that over 10% of Americans are using antidepressants. To compare, global rates of depression have not increased to the same extent, prompting worries from psychologists.
These findings were published recently by the OECD in its Health at a Glance report. The OECD say rising consumption levels could be explained by an increase in antidepressant use for milder cases of depression.
Most experts agree that antidepressants work for those with severe depression and should not be the first port of call for those with mild depression. Counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are recognised as being just as effective in the long run – but sadly, counselling is not always easily available.
Dr Mark van Ommeren, from the World Health Organisation’s department of mental health has said the following:
“We know that antidepressants work for moderate to severe depression. The explosion of antidepressants you see in most countries reflects the fact that lots of people with moderate to severe depression are getting treatment – and that’s a good thing. But the negative thing is that a lot of people are getting antidepressants who shouldn’t be getting them. Doctors and healthcare providers should be able to recognise depression correctly so that those who need antidepressants get them and those with only mild cases do not get prescribed.”
In the UK it is estimated that the prescription rate of antidepressants has doubled in the last 10 years to 70.7 for every 1,000 people.
Currently primary care physicians have a tendency to prescribe medication rather than CBT, although for some countries (including the UK) initiatives are launching to increase the availability of counselling. How this will affect prescription levels remains to be seen, but it is hoped that it will encourage a more thoughtful prescription rate.