Antidepressant prescriptions have risen by 48% in the last decade and continue to be more common in poorer areas.
Part of a larger report on medicines used in mental health in Scotland covering the past ten years, the latest statistics from ISD Scotland show that from 2017-18 to 2018-19 the total amount of antidepressant prescription drugs dispensed increased by 6% to 291 million daily doses.
In line with a tendency for Scots living in more deprived areas to report poorer mental health, prescription rates are higher in less affluent areas. Nearly double the number of patients receives an antidepressant prescription in Scotland’s most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.
Over the course of 2018-19, 936,000 patients were dispensed at least one antidepressant – an increase of 4% from the year before and of 48% since 2009-10.
In the same year, a majority of prescriptions were handed out to females (66%) – a persistent trend in Scotland throughout medicines used in mental health.
Prescriptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are the only ones where male patients make up the bulk of recipients (almost eight in ten).
When it comes to age, prescriptions among 15 to 19 year olds rise significantly from those made out to ten to 14 year olds. The rate then rises again considerably among those aged 20 to 24.
251 of every 1,000 Scots are prescribed antidepressants when aged between 50 and 54 – a rate second only to those aged 85 to 90 where 255 of every 1,000 receive a prescription.
Costs of antidepressants are also on the rise. In 2009-10 the NHS in Scotland spent £32m on antidepressants, rising to £42m in 2018-19 after reaching a peak of £45m in 2017-18.
Depression often refers to feelings of extreme sadness or emptiness that can last for weeks, months or years and interfere with daily life and can be categorised as mild, moderate or severe.
Some drugs classified as antidepressants are also used to treat other conditions like neuropathic pain and anxiety disorders.
The Scottish Conservatives have called for the Scottish Government to act to reduce antidepressant reliance and waiting times for mental health services.
The party’s mental health spokesperson Annie Wells said:
“There will always be a place for the use of antidepressants in the treatment of mental illness, but these figures demonstrate a staggering increase in dependence on these drugs.
“The SNP’s attempts to reduce antidepressant use have been completely unsuccessful. At the same time as this shocking increase in antidepressant use, mental health waiting times, particularly for young people, are also out of control.
“The worrying difference between antidepressant usage in women and men must also be understood and addressed.”