Ben Goldacre pointed out this new research in the BMJ – Explaining the rise in antidepressant prescribing.
It seems the research shows that the rise in antidepressant prescribing is nothing to do with new prescriptions, rather it’s due to more people being on the drugs for longer “The rise in antidepressant prescribing is mainly explained by small changes in the proportion of patients receiving long term treatment.” [It should be noted that the research is 5 years out of date already as the years covered are 1993 – 2005].
If that’s the case, I wonder if any research has been done into possible harm due to long-term SSRI use – by Glaxo maybe? Or Pfizer perhaps?
I wonder if patients find, when they try to stop taking SSRIs, they can’t because they have become addicted to the drug?
From the research: “…A key question remains: if the changes in antidepressant prescribing are accounted for by changes in the proportions of those in receipt of long term prescriptions, does this represent appropriate prescribing for those with chronic and relapsing disease according to current guidance or does it arise from a failure to discontinue antidepressants in those with milder illness, or both?…”
But no mention of addiction.
A very important point to be made here is that all too often, SSRI withdrawal symptoms are wrongly diagnosed by doctors as the underlying disease returning – so they simply put the patient back onto the SSRI.
From the research again: “Antidepressant prescribing is much higher compared with 10 years ago. This increase is not because of an increase in the incidence of new cases of depression, a lower threshold for treatment, an increase in the proportion of new cases of depression for whom antidepressants are prescribed, or an increase in the duration of the prescriptions written for new cases of depression. Rather, the dramatic changes in antidepressant prescribing volumes between 1993 and 2005 seem to be largely because more patients are on long term medication and this group consumes the most drugs. In order to better understand the rise in antidepressant prescribing, research needs to focus on chronic prescribing and policy needs to focus on encouraging appropriate high quality monitoring and review of those patients who become established on long term prescriptions.”
And still no mention of addiction…
It seems to me that the researchers need to see beyond the simple pattern of prescribing and look to the real reasons behind the long term use of SSRIs.