In the past few weeks I’ve seen article after article printed in newspapers shouting loud on the subject of anti-depressants. Doctors are over-prescribing them, they say. Doling them out like sweets to those that don’t need them, they claim.
Misleading statistics strike again.
Mythbuster #1: You don’t have to be depressed to take an anti-depressant. One drug can be used to treat more than one type of ailment. However, whatever it’s commonly used to treat, is what it becomes associated with. You say Prozac (Fluoxetine), we think anti-depressant. Did you know it’s also a treatment for bulimia and obsessive compulsive disorder?
I take Amitriptyline, a so-called anti-depressant, for chronic insomnia and chronic migraine to address the chemical imbalance in my brain, but it also treats childhood bed-wetting. My mother takes an antipsychotic used most commonly to treat schizophrenia, though she’s not psychotic; she takes it for severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mythbuster #2: The NHS waiting list to see any type of mental health professional or to access Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is excessive, months or even years long. What is the person needing help to do in the meantime? All a GP can do is provide advice and drugs and put you on the waiting list. Only urgent cases get priority. Private treatment is costly; it’s £250 per hour to see a psychiatrist in my area.
Mental health funding and access go hand in hand; if more money was poured into it, access would be better. Drugs are unfortunately cheaper than one-to-one therapy.
Mythbuster #3: Serious long-term health issues can require lifelong medications, so of course these people will need several prescriptions per year. Dosages can vary, meaning more than one tablet may be taken per day. My mother takes two anti-depressants, consisting of six tablets per day – that’s six boxes of tablets per month.
Mythbuster #4: Declining stigma regarding depression has seen many coming forward to admit they’re suffering and need help. Everyone will experience depression at some in their lives. Struggling to cope with grief, redundancy, divorce, etc. to the point of being unable to care for nothing and no one, barely surviving each day. Taking a pill for a few months can take the edge off until you’re able to cope on your own again. Anti-depressants are not “happy” pills. Not all depression is long-term and drugs don’t work for everyone.
Mythbuster #5: Global recession has returned us to the times of the Great Depression of the 1930s. Rising unemployment and lack of money putting a strain on relationships is enough to drive some to suicide. It’s only natural there’s an upsurge in prescriptions for mental health issues. Economic recovery may see the number of prescriptions decrease.
I wish the media would take these issues into consideration when writing their sensationalized click-bait headlines that send the public into pearl-clutching hysterics and possibly shaming the depressed into giving up their much needed medication.