Surge in number of medical card holders on anti-depressants

50,000 more people took anti-depressant medication over five years

Surge in number of medical card holders on anti-depressants

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New figures show a massive increase in the number of medical card holders on anti-depressants.

The statistics, obtained by Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on mental health James Browne, show an increase of 50,000 over five years.

They show that 391,603 medical card holders were on anti-depressants last year.

Among the top drugs prescribed were Amitriptyline, Sertraline, Escitalopram and Mirtazapine.

Deputy Browne said: "The increase since 2011 is quite significant when you consider that overall there were fewer medical cards in circulation at the end of 2016 than there were in 2011.

"Hopefully the level of prescribing is indicative of a lessening of stigma around mental health resulting in more people with mental health illnesses seeking help and improved diagnosis of mental health illness by the medical profession".

Mr Browne said while he had no doubt that doctors are properly prescribing the medication, something needs to be done.

"I would have concerns about how many doctors feel compelled to rely on medicated solutions to treating mental illness due to the lack of availability of other services such as counselling.

"Medication can be very effective in treating mental illness but I would assume no doctor wants their patients reliant on medication in circumstances where alternative therapies might be suitable.

"The issue is the lack of available alternative therapies."