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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Britain must be weened off antidepressants, doctors told

Doctors will be told not to offer antidepressants to those with mild illness and instead suggest options such as meditation, mindfulness and talking therapies.

The new NHS guidance comes after the number of pills prescribed for depression doubled over the last decade, with the condition soaring since the pandemic.

England already has one of the highest rates of antidepressant use in the world, with one in seven people estimated to be taking the pills.

The draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says patients with symptoms of mild depression should be free to choose from a “menu” of options. These include cognitive behavioural therapy, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, counselling and psychotherapy. 

If patients express no preference, the first option offered should be a group class in group cognitive behavioural therapy, the guidance suggests. 

The therapy focuses on trying to break a cycle of negative thoughts and beliefs.

The guidance also suggests that patients could be offered group behavioural activation, which aims to recognise negative patterns and focus on behaviours that are linked to improved mood.

GPs are urged not to offer antidepressants to those with mild or borderline depression.

The draft guideline, which is subject to consultation, states: “Do not routinely offer antidepressants as a first-line treatment, unless that is the person’s preference.”

Rise in use of antidepressants

Latest NHS data shows more than 79 million antidepressant drugs prescribed in England 2020-21 – up from 43 million in a decade.

In total, 7.87 million people in England were prescribed the drugs in 2020-21, NHS data show – one in seven people. 

Last week, the Health Secretary warned that levels of depression had nearly doubled since the pandemic. Latest UK statistics show 17 per cent of adults suffering such symptoms, compared with 10 per cent before the first lockdown. 

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