Enormous stresses of modern society blamed for huge rise in antidepressant consumption

Enormous stresses of modern society blamed for huge rise in antidepressant consumption
Dr Doireann O'Leary

A DRAMATIC rise in the consumption of antidepressants has been blamed on the enormous stresses of modern society.

Antidepressant consumption rose by approximately 31% between 2012 and 2017 in Cork, new figures have revealed.

On average, there were 212 patients per 1,000 prescribed antidepressants in North Lee, 213 in South Lee, 206 in North Cork and 148 in West Cork between 2012 and 2017.

Cork GP Dr Doireann O’Leary said the increase in antidepressant dosages is a “reflection of the stress of modern society”.

“The stress people are under these days is enormous,” she explained.

“We’re expected to work, be fit, healthy, positive, happy, and popular 24/7 and document it online for everyone to see. We compare ourselves a lot to what we see online which can make us feel inadequate or like we’re not doing well enough.

“I would also say that we now almost expect a pill for every problem instead of really looking at alternative remedies like exercise, better sleep, cognitive behavioural therapy, and counselling.

“Society is so fast-paced now that a quick and easy solution is often sought from patients, and perhaps doctors too in some cases,” she added.

Dr O'Leary added: “It's important for both the doctor and the patient to come up with an agreed plan together.” 

The figures were uncovered by RTÉ Investigates who obtained Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) prescribing information for each Local Health Office area, of which there are 32, including four in Cork.

The information revealed that while West Cork had the second lowest level of antidepressant consumption on average between 2012 and 2017 (22,422), other areas in Cork noted an increase of around 10,000 dosages per 1,000 people.

The rate of consumption per 1,000 people rose from 28,000 to 37,000 in the North Lee, 29,000 to 36,000 in South Lee and 26,000 to 36,000 in North Cork; an increase of around 31%.

Nationally, in 2012, there were around 27,500 dosages prescribed, per 1,000 per year.

This figure climbed to more than 35,000 dosages by 2017, an increase of 28%.

Local GP Dr Nick Flynn said that a lack of access to primary care therapy sessions can lead to doctors prescribing such medication.

While he praised the HSE’s counselling in the primary care service initiative, he added that it is limited to just eight sessions and like many talk therapies, its is, at times, difficult to access in a timely fashion.

Dr Flynn explained that doctors only turn to their prescription pads when they feel it is in the best interest of the patient, and they have exhausted other options such as talk therapy and discussions around healthy lifestyle patterns.

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