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A million patients are taking anti-depressants 'they don't really need' fuelling growing epidemic of addiction to prescription medicines

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Another article today in the Daily Mail about the over prescription of anti depressants


A million patients are taking anti-depressants 'they don't really need' fuelling growing epidemic of addiction to prescription medicines


More than one million patients are needlessly taking sedatives and anti-depressants, a damning report reveals.

They are left on the drugs for months or years at a time, fuelling a growing epidemic of addiction to prescription medicines.

Research by the University of Roehampton suggests a quarter of a million in Britain have been left on tranquillisers such as Valium for more than six months, well over the recommended one-month limit.


More than one million patients are needlessly taking sedatives and anti-depressants

Another 800,000 have been taking anti-depressants for more than two years, having wrongly been prescribed them in the first place, the report says.

Coming off these drugs can cause crippling withdrawal effects, such as hallucinations and depression.

The Mail today backs calls led by charities and MPs for a 24-hour helpline for people innocently hooked on prescription drugs.

Study leader Dr James Davies told the Mail’s Good Health section: ‘This is a scandal for which there can be no excuse.’ The UK has the fourth-most medicated population in Europe when it comes to anti-depressants. One in 11 people – five million across England alone – take anti-depressants every year.

Dr Davies estimates half of patients have been on the drugs for more than two years.

Of these, he calculates, a third have no clear clinical reason for doing so.


He said: ‘In other words, about 800,000 people shouldn’t be on this medication. The longer you are on them the worse and more protracted the withdrawal will be.’ The dangers of benzodiazepine sedatives – a class of drugs including Valium – is even starker. Benzodiazepines are prescribed for anxiety or sleeplessness, but people who take them for more than six weeks face a 50 per cent chance of becoming addicted.

And the only help they can receive is from addiction services frequented by Class A drug addicts.

According to the latest Office for National Statistics report on drug poisoning, prescription drugs were linked with 1,313 deaths in 2015, more than the 1,201 deaths linked with abuse of heroin and morphine.

Debbie Abrahams MP, a member of the all-party Parliamentary group for prescribed drug dependence, said: ‘There is a real and urgent need for more help to be made available.


MP Debbie Abrahams has called for more help to be made available for patients suffering persistent withdrawal effects


‘Many patients report devastating persistent withdrawal and other negative effects.’ 

Professor Jim McManus, director of public health for Hertfordshire County Council, said family doctors must take responsibility. ‘GPs’ prescribing behaviour has to change, including not over-treating people or giving them treatments that will actually do them harm,’ he said.

But Stephen Buckley, of the mental health charity Mind, stressed that helping people stop taking drugs has to be a priority.

He said: ‘We hear from lots of people who have been on anti-depressants for a long time and want to come off them.

‘We’d like to think GPs can help but that doesn’t always seem to be the case.’

Professor Colin Drummond, chairman of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: ‘Prescription drug dependence is the Cinderella of addiction.

‘Treatment services have been directed by government to prioritise treatment for illegal drugs. People with prescription drug dependence are often turned away.’

A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We recognise that this is an emerging risk, which is why we are taking steps to better understand and tackle the harms caused by addiction to prescription drugs.’

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