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Antidepressants Are Overprescribed, Says Doctor

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A doctor writing for the British Medial Journal (BMJ) has stated that antidepressants are overprescribed. His views are part of a debate on the BMJ website over treatment with antidepressants.

Dr. Des Spence, a general practitioner from Glasgow, said that “”we use antidepressants too easily, for too long, and that they are effective for few people (if at all).” Though he acknowledges that depression is real, he argued that the definition of clinical depression is too general and is “causing widespread medicalization.”

Spence also points out that antidepressant prescriptions in the U.K. rose to 46 million in 2011, a 9.6% increase. He questions the view that depression is a simply chemical imbalance, and believes antidepressants are becoming “a distraction from a wider debate about why we are so unhappy as a society.”

“But even if we accept that antidepressants are effective, a Cochrane review suggests that only one in seven people actually benefits,” said Spence. “Thus millions of people are enduring at least six months of ineffective treatment.”

On the other side of the debate, Ian Reid, a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Aberdeen, argues that the rise in antidepressant prescriptions is due to an increasing duration of treatment, rather than a rise in the number of people prescribed the medications.

Reid dismisses most of Spences claims, pointing to a survey of doctors that shows “cautious and conservative prescribing.” He also states that there are “methodological flaws” in studies showing that antidepressants are no better than placebos for mild depression.

“Antidepressants are but one element available in the treatment of depression, not a panacea,” said Reid. “Like ‘talking treatments’ (with which antidepressants are entirely compatible), they can have harmful side effects, and they certainly don’t help everyone with the disorder. But they are not overprescribed. Careless reportage has demonized them in the public eye, adding to the stigmatisation of mental illness, and erecting unnecessary barriers to effective care.”

Antidepressants Are Overprescribed, Says Doctor
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  • Sidney Gottlieb

    A psychiatrist defending the over prescribing of antidepressants is not new. Their connection with big pharma is both long term and strong. But the good Dr. Reid states that antidepressants are only one element in treatment. Yet an article in the NY Times by another psychiatrist Dr. Donald Levin states that the new model is for 15 min. appointments and employs no talk therapy. This is a medication only type model and is used more and more frequently in the U.S. This model does not employ talk therapy it is only the use of drugs.

  • http://yahoo desideria

    iagree that antidepresives r way overprescribeb, especially to children. my daughter couldn,t handle her 3yr. old, my granson was put on medication at age3 against my advise. he is now 16 and in a rehab fascility for an undetermined duaration. he went from a bright happy beautiful child into a sullen hostile troubled child and i dont know if he will ever come back to us as the highly intelligent happy loving person he once was. i, as his grandmother was isolated from him from the time he was 4 until he was 8 because of my concern over his being more and more medicated and was denied my rights as a grandparent ev en though i raised him along with his teenage mother until the boy was 3. its been many years of torment for me but especially for my granson all at the hands of my narcistic daughter. all i can do now is what i’ve done for 13 yrs. pray pray and pray and request prayer for him from all of you. thank you for reading this and for your prayers.

  • Ronnie

    There needs to be better treatments available. The current treatments aren’t adequate enough in my opinion. Talk therapy is way, way too slow of a process and doesn’t work really well. I’ve been in therapy now for a decade for depression and I’ve seen very small changes at best.

    Medication on the other hand works really well but is not long-term solution. I wish this topic was taken much more seriously in our society. I think this is a major issue that should be looked at. People are suffering very very badly, and all those school shootings that everyone wants to debate are from mental health concerns which no one wants to open a discussion about. It’s a huggggeeee, huge problem.

  • Wyman Ward

    I agree. It seems that I was ” overprescribed” medication as well with no improvement but the depression deepened and intensified. Also the quality of my life was decreased. I’m not saying that all depression meds are wrong or unnecessary but are given too quickly and mask what a real problem is. Also most appts with psychiatrists are rushed with very little time digging deep to help patients.

  • http://yahoo mike

    Having suffered through depression for many years. The lack of mental health professionals available to people such as myself is extremely frustrating. General Practioners put you on the antidpressants and tell you that you need to see a mental health professional. Thanks for the insight Doc, but while there are clinics for general health care there are very few resources for psychiatric care. No insurance no Psychiatry

    • Delisa

      I agree with you wholeheartedly Mike.

      • Barbara

        I agree. 100%

  • Justin

    Lots of the drugs out there aren’t adequately studied. Pushed through by big Pharma and the doctors. That’s why your seeing all these commercials now AFTER about side effects, etc. As far as talk therapy. Its good for surface issues, like a death , dealing with grief, making a transition in progress. Going deeper, its pretty useless.

  • Paul

    I was on SSRIs for over 10 years. I look back at the crazy things I did during the time I was on those poisons and I realize that they do very little to treat depression. Psychotherapy is pointless while taking antidepressants because a patient’s feelings and insights are false, muted, and inaccurate, thereby making efforts at effective therapy unprofitable. (No pain, no gain.) It’s sad but true that the best drugs for treating depression are considered “drugs of abuse”…

    • Tom Yes

      Don’t worry Paul. The drug industry is thinking about how they can profit from the drugs of abuse as we speak. That psyche drugs are so hard to quit makes them their drugs of choice currently. The key is they want to be in control of the addiciton they produce. That is where the money is -

  • john

    This guy is an Idiot. I have tried 3 different anti-depression medications and they do work , some wrong but once you find the right one you stabilize. Then you can get off them. Without them I would not be here now!

    • jaymie

      I totally agree with you. After suffering a fall and injuring my lower back (fell right on the spot that I have Spondylosis), tried physical therapy, chiropractor, nerve ablation, accupuncture and alleve but nothing helped with the exreme pain. Tried several antidepresants. Relieved the pain but caused other problems (continuous headaches, dizziness). Put on Cymbalta and what a difference a perscription can make. Still feel pain but not to the extreme as before. Sleep much better (abviously I have a Serotonin issue). Have Arthritus and Fibromyalgia in addition to lower back nerve damage due to fall (verified by test). Obviously this antidepressant has helped me to live a more normal life.

  • don

    I have panic disorder with agoraphobia, I’ve been on (and off) my meds– without my meds, I cannot even go outside, let alone make it through a grocery store with panic attacks,, for the past 14 years, cannot drive a car, cannot live an normal life ( I still cannot drive a car alone)

  • Dennis Bazzell

    Of course they are overprescribed. There also underprescribed. Some guy decides that a particular medication is being prescribed to people who don’t need it. That’s only a big story if you frame it right. You can’t mention other people who desperately need it but don’t get it.

  • Dennis Bazzell

    Of Course their overprescribed. There also underprescribed. This is only a big story if you don’t mention people who need the medication but don’t get it.

    • http://Youtube.com Dennis Bazzell

      You seem very knowledgeable about this subject, and your grammar also helps you appear very intelligent. Also: both of those statements are false. There are 3 different “there’s”. They’re, their, and there. Use them correctly idiot.

  • Tom Yes

    The psychiatric profession is out of control. My Mother saw a commercial and decided that youthful like happiness looked good compared to being 83 years old, experiencing lymphoma and chemo. Once a psychiatrist had his claws in her she went completely psychotic and is now suicidal. The psychiatrist blames her for her problems and he seems quite proud of himself. My Mother cannot make a decision, lives in constant fear and paranoia, and obsesses about suicide as a a way out. The Doctor thinks this is a prescription problem. The drugs, the ads, the needs for psychiatrists to feel professional compared to MD’s and psychologists and have prescribing priveleges. All this plays a role in a profession that to my eyes is bereft of direction and conscience. I am most concerned about the elderly and children- giving them up to psychiatrists is akin to pushing them off a cliff because they cannot represent themselves which makes them perfect victims.

  • http://Yahoo Carolyn

    My elderly mother was put on an antidepressant (Remeron) and it put her in the hospital after she only took it for 3 days. Her legs stiffened and she couldn’t bear her own weight. She became paranoid and confused. She tried to eat her hospital gown and thought the hospital staff was plotting to kill her. What a horrible drug. And this was supposed to make her feel better after her husband died?

  • Ichabod Crane

    My doctor prescribed an antidepressant when i was in the hospital because, as he said, “you looked depressed.” LOOKED depressed, egads. And he made no other attempt to determine if I really was depressed. I was stuck with the damned things for weeks, and they’re still a matter of my medical record.

    • Brianna

      You weren’t allowed to refuse them? Why were you in the hospital to begin with? Seems kinda odd.

  • Ziggy F

    Why next this Bozo will tell us that depression is nonsense…Why snap out of it man, just take a few stiff drinks each day and the world will look rosey….

  • Kat Vil

    What a surprise (sarcasm). So long as doctors have so little time per patient (a few minutes at the most is the longest I’ve been seen by a doctor) and so long as our healthcare (or disease care) system continues to be money-driven, whatever pill is available to “cure” the patient will be what’s prescribed.

    After all, none of us is allowed to feel grief or loss because of divorce, being fired, the death of a friend or family member, disabling injuries and so on. We have to function as fast as we can and get as much done as we can, just like the doctors.

    The overprescribing of antidepressants is merely symptomatic of the world in which we’re living, a world where we are no longer permitted to be human.

  • howard

    Exercise + Fresh, clean, whole food – drugs = eventual psychological health improvement in over 90% of those being treated for depression.

  • http://www.tmsproviders.com/ Lydia Bridges

    People who have this condition should seek proper treatments and counseling. it is very important to following medication treatments. However, i believe that it is much better to have other interventions other than medication. TMS is new, and it is good becaus eit is invasive and no side effects.

  • Jack

    I think one of the most important things to think about is diet and exercise as one of the first steps. Anti depressants may help to get the ball rolling mentally (not in my case), but people are too willing to rely on them as a total cure. This mentality only leads to further disappointment and depression.

    People seem to forget what the human body is supposed to do and that is to exercise and eat the things that it needs. I think part of the rise of depression is the fact that people don’t exercise or eat the right foods anymore. Of course that’s not true in every case and a lot are more serious and require more than than just correction in exercise and diet, although even in these cases it would surely be a good step.

    Anti-depressant can be helpful and I am in no way taking away from their place in modern medicine. We must continue to research into them and look for improved solutions.

    However I think as individuals we need to take more responsibility for the way we are personally. If you get no exercise eat rubbish food and expect your mind to be healthy then surely you are kidding yourself.

    I hope this does not come across as over simplifying things, but I just think a little common sense towards yourself and giving your mind the best chance of dealing with depression is a good place to start.

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