Antidepressant prescription is at an all time high in the UK but funding for the support that should be provided alongside this form of treatment is far from suitable. Many people are being given antidepressants when it is not entirely necessary and alternatives such as therapy or self help guides could potentially be more effective.
Antidote 2 Antidepressant spoke to writer for Samedan LTD pharmaceutical publishers, Louis Goss, about the problems with over prescription. ‘It seems that antidepressants are effective in some cases, particularly in combination with other forms of therapy. Recent studies seem to suggest that antidepressants are more effective than placebo. However in many cases antidepressants are only somewhat effective. It seems that antidepressants may be more effective in more severe cases of depression.’ Goss said in reference to a 2018 study.
With the knowledge that the extent of depression may determine the suitability of antidepressants, there is indication that treatment needs to be more personalised in order to tackle the problem rather than causing others. The severity of withdrawal and side effects is becoming a huge talking point but with current funding and research it feels like there is no easy way around it.
‘The area of mental health has suffered from significant under funding since the so-called golden era of SSRIs. There has been little investment in new drugs for mental health treatments and the area is seen as somewhat of a ‘black hole’.’ said Goss. Despite depression affecting 1 in 10 people in the UK in their lifetime, it seems like we are miles behind where we should be when treating and even preventing the mental health condition. When people already feel burdensome asking for support when suffering with depression, it often feels like the better option for everyone is to quickly accept medication and deal with the effects of it on their own.
Goss said: ‘Antidepressants come with risks and patients should be aware of potential side effects. For people with mild depression, CBT and other forms of treatment should be the first choice.’ Cognitive therapies have been found to be highly effective for conditions such as depression and anxiety and ‘CBT treatments have the lowest relapse rates of any psychological treatments.’ Therefore, there should be more focus on providing people with talking therapies rather than churning out more and more of the same SSRIs.
Goss told us that there has been a 70% drop in the number of research programmes into drugs for mental health conditions since the 1990s. Only 5.8% of the health research budget is spent on mental health research. ‘This represents just £9.75 per person living with a mental health condition.’ he said. This is simply not enough support.
Fortunately, online therapies are becoming more accessible possibly following rising awareness around mental health conditions. Though sites like BetterHelp are still incredibly expensive and not an option for many people, leaving them with little other options. Money seems to be a common theme when it comes to what is stopping people from getting better and it should not be this way.
There is hope in the concept of personalised medicine which is undeniably a step in the right direction for treating mental health. In the future, artificial intelligence tools may give doctors the ability to predict which people will respond best to different forms of treatment. ‘As of now, it seems for most people a combination is most effective. Nevertheless mental health is still poorly understood and doctors have trouble in predicting who responds to what treatment.’ Goss said.
Goss told us that on the whole, ‘around 60% of patients respond to medication.’ He said: ‘With greater research and a deeper understanding of the root causes of mental health problems we may be able to predict with greater accuracy.’ The general consensus when treating depression is that we do not have the funding and tools we need to perfect it right now. But seeing decreases in funding is incredibly disheartening and it’s time to make a change.
You can sign our petition for increased mental health funding here.