Antidepressants are Over-prescribed

Dr Vernon Coleman MB ChB DSc FRSA

It is said that antidepressants should be prescribed for another million people in Britain alone. This is startling – particularly since they are already taken by millions. In Scotland, one in five adults already takes antidepressants.

I’m sure that the drug companies making antidepressants are delighted to hear this advice being publicised.

(The article originally promoting what I regard as irresponsible nonsense appeared in The Lancet – a medical journal which used to have an impressive reputation but which I now regard as something of an embarrassment to its history. The Lancet carries a good deal of drug company advertising.)

The profits on antidepressants are very healthy, thank you.

But I think there are questions to ask about antidepressant drugs.

First, are they effective?

And, in my view, the answer is that they are often not effective. I certainly don’t think they are as effective as the drug companies say they are.

Second, are they safe?

That’s easy. No they aren’t. All drugs can be dangerous. In my view, antidepressants can be very dangerous. Just take a look at the official warnings and listed side effects for popular antidepressants.

Third, are they necessary?

The answer is that, in my view, they are often NOT necessary. Drugs will not heal sadness caused by disappointment and frustration and real life problems. Drugs are not necessarily helpful when given to individuals who are bereaved or who have suffered a real life crisis. These emotions are a normal part of life but many people want them treated and doctors are often too quick to reach for the pen and the prescription pad. It’s an easy way to get rid of a patient quickly.

`Take these and make an appointment for two weeks’ time’ says the doctor, knowing that the chances of the patient getting an appointment to see the same doctor are slim.

Sadly, many modern GPs do not have the time or the knowledge to prescribe these drugs safely.

A GP who has seen a patient for five minutes and who then prescribes an antidepressant is, in my view, behaving unprofessionally. But there probably aren’t many doctors who would agree with me about that. Too many doctors just do what they’re told – even if that means just handing out potentially hazardous drugs in vast quantities.

Note: I was the first doctor to warn about the danger of benzodiazepine tranquillisers back in the early 1970s. The Government endorsed my warnings in 1988. And today, most doctors agree with me. But for decades, much of the medical professional labelled me a dangerous lunatic for my warnings. I warned, too, that drug companies would recommend antidepressants when tranquillisers became unfashionable. And that is exactly what has happened.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2018