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03 April 2017

A Million Patients Are Taking Anti-Depressants 'They Don't Really Need'

More than one million patients are needlessly taking
sedatives and anti-depressants
A million patients are taking anti-depressants 'they don't really need' fuelling growing epidemic of addiction to prescription medicines
by Ben Spencer Medical Correspondent for the Daily Mail, 27 March 2017

  • Patients are left on the drugs for months or years at a time
  • Coming off the medication can cause crippling withdrawal effects
  • The Mail backs calls for 24-hour helpline for those hooked on prescription drugs 

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.

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.

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