Long-term antidepressant use creeps up

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A dramatic rise in antidepressant prescriptions given by general practitioners has led to an increased number of people popping the mood boosters long-term, say researchers at the University of Southampton. The study, published today in the British Medical Journal, shows that despite a drop in the number of new patients diagnosed with depression over the past 11 years, the number of prescriptions per patient doubled (from 2.8 in 1993 to 5.6 in 2004). “We estimate that more than 2 million people are now taking antidepressants long-term over several years, in particular women between the ages of 18 and 30,” says Tony Kendrick, the study’s lead author. The researchers conclude that more research needs to be done on chronic prescribing and they call for better monitoring of long-term use. In the United States, roughly 27 million people (10 percent of the population) take antidepressants—the average person stays on the drug for 5 to 7 years.