Number Of Children Prescribed Anti-Depressants Increased By 54% In Seven Years, WHO Reveals

The number of children in the UK prescribed anti-depressants increased by more than 50% between 2005 and 2012, according to a new study.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed the findings and stated that the increase in the use of these drugs to treat young people was "a concern".

Over those seven years there was a 54% increase in the number of young people prescribed anti-depressants in the UK. WHO's study also revealed increases in Denmark (60%), Germany (49%), the US (26%) and the Netherlands (17%) in the same period, according to the BBC.

"Anti-depressant use amongst young people is and has been a matter of concern because of two reasons," WHO director of mental health Dr Shekhar Saxena said, according to PA.

"One, are more people being prescribed anti-depressants without sufficient reason? And second, can anti-depressants do any major harm?"

The study, 'Trends and patterns of antidepressant use in children and adolescents from five western countries, 2005–2012', was published in the European Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Dr Saxena also said WHO was worried that young people were being given drugs not licensed for under-18s.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines say the drugs should not be used to treat "mild depression" in children.

The guidelines state even when a child has moderate to severe depression, anti-depressants should not be used except in combination with a concurrent psychological therapy.

Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said anti-depressants would rarely be the first treatment option for children and young people.

"With such long waits for patients to see a specialist or to get a psychological therapy referral, drug therapy is sometimes seen as the only option for GPs to best support patients, who may be in extreme distress, and their family," she said.

"We have been recommending for some time that in future, as part of an enhanced four-year training programme, all GP trainees should receive specialist-led training in mental health and child health.

"These measures truly would help to ensure that our young patients with mental health conditions receive the most appropriate treatment, and the same level of care as those with physical health problems, wherever in the country they live."

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