Food is the most abused anxiety drug; exercise is the most underutilised antidepressant

The iron is the best antidepressant I have ever found‘  > So quoted one of our clients following our last Posting.  Sadly though too few have taken up ironing  therapy, or indeed any complementary therapy, as the number of long-term users of antidepressants in England has topped four million.

However, a leading mental health researcher at the University of Sheffield says, “Professionals may be becoming slightly less certain about the benefits of antidepressants for mild depression and patients themselves may be declining medication.

Reasons for the pill fight back might be that individuals are finding it increasingly difficult to access GP services to discuss mental health issues, or that the issues are not discussed due to time constraints or other pressures. Another explanation could be the rise in so-called talking therapies, such as CBT and those offered by Tonic, or the ever growing popularity of relaxation techniques, like mindfulness and yoga.

Despite the depressing statistics, there seems to be a glimmer of hope that psychological treatments are a better way of treating depression than dosing up on drugs,” says a Tonic therapist. “There is certainly a rise in awareness of the benefits of exercise and other social measures for tackling depression, which come under the heading of social prescriptions.

The statistics are a bitter pill to swallow

“It all comes down to education. Just think, of those seven million people who were prescribed anti-depressant pills last year, not one was cured. All these drugs do is suppress the symptoms, whereas hypnotherapy tackles the cause. What is important is establishing WHY someone is depressed in the first place. Often a few simple lifestyle changes can take a depressed person off these pills for life”.

However, to be fair, statistics showing increased prescribing of antidepressants should not automatically be seen as negative. It is likely that more patients are now willing to discuss their mental health problems with a healthcare professional. Ultimately this is a good thing and a step towards parity with physical health issues.

But what is really required is cultural change. Just as antibiotics are being cut back, anti-depressants need to be prescribed as a last resort. The problem is that patients go to their doctor with an expectation that they will come out with a pot of pills*. As the doctor’s time is precious, it is far easier to give their patient what they want, rather than start talking about causes and other therapies.

But still, the tide has started to turn.

Footnote  > * About 40% of GP appointments involve mental health.  Around two-thirds of people with mental health problems are not accessing any kind of help at all.

8 thoughts on “Food is the most abused anxiety drug; exercise is the most underutilised antidepressant

  1. Millie M (Rotherham) says:

    The problem with any prescribing treatment is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Thus it is important to offer people a choice of treatment options that may include medication, talking therapies, alternatives such as arts therapy or exercise, or a combination of some or all of these.

  2. John V. Mason says:

    It is interesting to read that you say no-one has been cured by anti-depressants. What is more important is that they can cause actual harm. Some antidepressants and bladder medicines are linked to dementia, which is why many doctors are calling for them to be deprescribing wherever possible.

    • Tricyclic anti-depressants such as amitriptyline, which are also prescribed for pain and insomnia, and some of the SSRI class, such as Seroxat, are equally risky drugs. In fact, some Parkinson’s drugs are also linked to a raised dementia risk.

      • F. Norse (doctor retired) says:

        I think you are referring to anticholinergic drugs. There are nearly million people in England on this type of drug. It is already known that they can cause short-term confusion and raise people’s risk of a fall. One in five people taking an antidepressant is on an anticholinergic drug, usually amitriptyline.

  3. Please don’t mock this issue. Depression is a terrible disease and probably the biggest contributor to global disability. It is a massive challenge for humankind. Antidepressants are an effective tool even if they come with risks. The alternative is to do nothing – but remember untreated depression is a huge problem because of the burden to society

    • Fair point. One in six 18 to 64-year-olds were prescribed antidepressants at some point last year, rising to one in five among those aged 65 and over. Rates of anti-depressant use across all age groups rose 5% between 2015-16 and 2017-18.Twice as many women as men are being prescribed antidepressants in all age groups. The figures include antidepressants prescribed for conditions other than mental health problems, including migraine.

  4. Sean Baker says:

    Research has proved that we are all staying on antidepressants for far too long. This not only boosts the numbers of prescriptions but serves no useful purpose. However, the number of first time prescriptions has remained fairly stable or, as you state, even shown a slight drop.

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