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Journal tests North GPs.

Health experts claim the number of people taking anti-depressants in the region is spiralling out of control with doctors dishing out more than half a million prescriptions in the past year.

But North doctors say the new forms of anti-depressants, Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), are only prescribed to people suffering severe symptoms of depression.

The Journal tested the theory by sending two people, who asked not to be named, to their GPs in the region to see how easy it was to be prescribed anti-depressants.

A 28-year-old woman visited her doctor complaining of difficulties sleeping and eating after experiencing a marriage breakdown.

The woman, who had no medical history of depression, told the GP she had been feeling low for over one week and was upset.

The GP offered the woman an anti-depressant and a place on a waiting list to see a psychologist, which could take up to two months.

She was handed a two-week sick note for depression and advised to take time off work to recover.

Days later a 32-year-old man visited his GP complaining of sleeplessness, stress and a loss of appetite. The engineer, who has never experienced depression, said he had been feeling low for a number of days and was under a lot of pressure at work. He was advised to take time off from his job and revisit the GP in two weeks' time when, if his situation remained unchanged, he would be prescribed an anti-depressant.

Former prescription drug counsellor Shirley Trinkett, who has been campaigning against the use of anti-depressants, said the scenarios illustrate how easy it is to get hold of anti-depressants.

She said: "The use of anti-depressants is spiralling out of control in the region and across the country. A lot of people are being prescribed medication for minor symptoms of depression, who would be better off with short-term sedation drugs or counselling. Unfortunately it is a lot easier for doctors to pull out a prescription pad and write Prozac on it than it is to offer people the help they need."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 26, 2004
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