Up to 40 per cent of adults in some parts of West Belfast are popping ‘happy’ pills to cope with depression.
Areas like Ballymurphy and the lower Falls are the worst hit, with many now addicted to strong medicines.
News of the frightening addiction levels came on the same day a study found that anti-depressants have little clinical effect on patients. The University of Hull study tested popular drugs like Prozac and Seroxat.
Thousands of West Belfast residents are prescribed these drugs to combat depression. Although they are packaged as being ‘non-addictive’, many users find it impossible to get through the day without popping at least one pill.
Under new health reforms based on the University of Hull findings, anti-depressant users could be stripped off their drugs and made to undergo therapy treatment instead. This would present doctors with a nightmare scenario, as many of their patients would find it impossible to get through the day without a Prozac or Seroxat fix.
Leading West Belfast pharmacist Terry Maguire said the study would have huge implications in West Belfast.
However, he cautioned against taking its findings as verbatim, insisting more tests need to be done.
Terry said: “Every healthcare professional needs to look closely at the details of the study. More consideration needs to be given because it could have huge implications.”
A senior medical source expanded on this, revealing that up to 40 per cent of people in the poorest parts of West Belfast are on anti-depressants.
“It would create huge difficulties if doctors all of a sudden stopped prescribing these pills,” said one healthcare professional. “Patients who are on them, many of whom are addicted to them, would not know what to do. They just wouldn’t be able to get their day in. Look at Ballymurphy and the lower Falls, I’d say 40 per cent of adults are taking some type of anti-depressant.”
The medical source explained that doctors prefer prescribing Prozac and Seroxat because they are not classed as addictive drugs.
“It’s easier for a doctor to give someone Prozac than Diazepam because it’s not classed as addictive,” he added.
“But there are thousands of people who aren’t really depressed taking the drug. They’ve been prescribed it because of a fear in doctors that the patient might do something drastic if they don’t get what they are asking for. Then when the patient comes off Prozac they start to feel low so the doctor has no choice but to prescribe it again. It’s a vicious circle that needs to be examined quite urgently.”
But it’s NOT depression returning – it’s merely a reaction to stopping an addictive drug.