Official figures show the number of antidepressants given to patients in England has doubled in a decade.

Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that in 2015 there were 61 million antidepressant drugs prescribed and dispensed in England. This figure is up from 57.1 million in 2014 and 29.4 million in 2005. This, together with the cost of the drugs rising by 7.4% from 2014-15, means that the health service is paying £285 million a year for antidepressant drugs.

Gillian Connor, head of policy at Rethink Mental Illness said, “The reasons for this increase in antidepressant prescriptions could include a greater awareness of mental illness and more willingness to seek help.

“However, with our overstretched and underfunded mental health services, too often antidepressants are the only treatment available.”

An NHS England spokeswoman said: “The latest figures for prescribing and dispensing prescriptions show a rising demand and associated costs to treat a range of conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular, mental health and gastrointestinal issues.

“Whilst there has been a fall in antibiotic prescribing, which is to be welcomed, there has been a rise in the use of antidepressants which reinforces the vital work of prescribers, including dentists, nurses and pharmacists, working closely with patients every day to ensure the best outcomes for individuals and to protect precious NHS resources.”

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