Latest prescription data shows consumption of psychiatric drugs continues to soar

The latest prescription figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that the UK is in the midst of a psychiatric drug epidemic.  Over 57m prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in England in 2014, enough for one for every man, woman and child.  This represents a 7.5% increase since 2013, and over 500% since 1992.  This level of antidepressant prescribing is particularly worrying, given that the prevalence of depression has remained steady over the past ten years.  Indeed recent research suggests that the numbers of prescriptions are rising because more people are taking the drugs for longer.

Dr. James Davies, co-founder of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry (CEP) and author of Cracked: Why Psychiatry is doing more Harm than Good, says, “More people are taking antidepressants for longer because these drugs cause dependency and people cannot get off.  Withdrawal support charities report increasing numbers of people who are unable to withdraw without suffering severe symptoms which can sometimes last for months or even years after coming off.  Urgent action is needed to reduce prescribing levels and to provide proper services for those who wish to come off.”

There have been significant rises in the prescription of other psychiatric drugs too. 10.5m prescriptions for drugs used to treat psychosis were issued in England in 2014, up from 9.7m in 2013, an increase of over 8% in just one year.  There has also been an 8% rise in prescriptions for stimulants – typically used to treat children with “hyperactivity disorders” – to almost 1.2m prescriptions.

Dr. Davies continues, “It is very worrying that each year prescription rates rise at a much faster rate than the population, with a total of around 85 million prescriptions for psychiatric drugs last year in England alone.  The evidence clearly shows that long-term use of these medications often leads to worse outcomes for patients, with higher rates of mortality and disability.  These drugs should be used much more cautiously, only for short periods and always with a clear plan for tapering off.”

16 Responses to Latest prescription data shows consumption of psychiatric drugs continues to soar

  1. Liam T Kirk 10/04/2015 at 2:01 pm #

    I was initially diagnosed with generalised anxiety but last year I was also diagnosed with depression. It caused problems with my wife to the point that me and her made the decision to defer having children due to medical reasons, so I’ve been celibate for over a year at the moment. I’ve had an open conversation with my therapist who moved and I have the same questions with my new therapist but they remain silent.

  2. dr John Curcio 10/04/2015 at 2:10 pm #

    I find myself in complete agreement. The situation in Italy, where I presently live and work as a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist is pretty much the same. People tend to prefer “pills” rather than alternative therapies, such as psycosocial rehabilitation or psychotherapy ecc., mostly due to the nagative aspects of length of “time” and resolution of the problem. People here do not like to wait and therefore the presciption of drugs is the fastest way to begin a change process. And of course, another aspect is the cost of alternative therapies, in particular, psychotherapeutic ones. However, I do find that people who decide to do some verbal therapy tend to change their views on drugs when the psychotherapy was even moderately effective in fostering change. An interesting argument, overall, which is why as a professional I have decided to familiarize myself and do training on the Finnish “Open Dialogue” approach to psychotic conditions mostly, also effective with less severe psychological states such as depression. Thank you for the interesting argument and article. Dr John Curcio

  3. graham smith 10/04/2015 at 2:23 pm #

    As both an ex-user of psychotropic drugs and an interested professional ( Chartered Psychologist ) , I am appalled by these statistics.
    The withdrawal symptoms I experienced when withdrawing from SSRI`s were horrendous and the ” help” available = none, apart from my GP who was no wiser than me on the topic.
    It seems that drug addiction services are totally geared to dealing with illicit narcotics and are neither equipped and trained or commissioned to deal with this massive problem, which is getting bigger by the day.
    Politicians and others in positions of power must be made aware of this issue by any means ( if they are not already aware ) and there needs to be a major change in the way that apparent mental health problems are dealt with – first of all looking at exactly why there is this huge increase in prescriptions. It is not good enough to just drug the population if there are changes we must make to our society as a whole, however difficult or unpopular that might be.

  4. VEDHAKUMAR VALLIAPPAN 12/04/2015 at 5:32 am #

    Watch a drop of sunshine to see how a young woman was able to handle here schizophrenia without drugs.

  5. RobinP 23/04/2015 at 12:22 am #

    Can anyone clarify what is meant by “The latest prescription figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that the UK is in the midst of a psychiatric drug epidemic. Over 57m prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in England in 2014,”.

    Does this mean that number of prescriptions written by doctors, or issued by the pharmacists, or actually taken by the patients? I’ve been given two unrequested prescriptions for statins but haven’t wasted my time going to the pharmacy to collect them. Do they count in those stats?

  6. Angela 18/07/2015 at 9:14 am #

    Quoting ‘increased prescriptions’ as a % is a rather blunt tool. In the late 1990s my doctor prescribed my regular medication 6 months at a time. Now I am able to get only one or 2 months on one prescription. No wonder prescription rates seem to have rocketed. Has anyone looked at the total number of months of medication prescribed by the total prescriptions? Has that changed?

  7. val 24/07/2015 at 1:07 pm #

    this story is about the injustic that has happend to millions of people all over the world and the world of cover up.
    i know what im talking about as im one of the people that the injusice has happend to.
    I have been off all drugs since 1989 and i am still living a life of sheer hell.I have wrote letters for decades and have no joy. becose doctors dont listen and do not have the knowlage and will not listen all they do is offer more drugs to cover up the probblems.
    i cant live a normal life because of the constant pain everywhere in so tight and my muscles hurt so much. how many years before i can have some kind of normality normal feeling.this is what drugs have done to me my life has been stolen .

  8. val 24/07/2015 at 1:10 pm #

    I have been off since 1989 but am still feeling the pain
    please tell me your storeys

  9. L. Lawrence 17/05/2016 at 2:34 pm #

    I cannot believe no one is talking about this more!!!! We are on the verge of creating robots. The amount of young people I see who come for therapy that have been offered, or prescribed anti depressants is shocking!!! When are the medical profession going to wake up to what is happening???


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