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  • Writer's pictureFiona Harvie


Antidepressant use is growing and recent figures released by NHS England has lead to some unhelpful headlines.

If you have mild to moderate depression the Royal Collage of Psychiatrists recommend a talking therapy like counselling but in severe depression it is recommended that talking therapy is combined with antidepressants.

However, in the NHS there is little provision for counselling and when a patient sees their GP they may recommend an antidepressant rather than wait for many months to see a counsellor. It is also a cheaper option for our hard stretched NHS.

Antidepressants can be highly effective drugs, they alter certain chemicals in the brain which affect mood. Some people are reluctant to use these drugs, maybe by reading scare stories on the internet or because someone they know has not responded well to treatment. There are a few things to keep in mind if your GP prescribes an antidepressant.

1. They don't provide instant relief.

Normally it will take from 2-4 weeks for the full benefits of the medication to take effect.

2. You may have side effects

Side effects can occur with any drug but there are many documented side effects of antidepressants. If you find the side effects are too difficult to cope with and are making your life more difficult, then you should go back to your GP who can change the drug or the dosage.

3. They are not addictive.

An addictive drug is one where you need to increase the dose to obtain the same effect. With Antidepressants, once the correct dose for you has been identified it should provide the required relief throughout treatment.

4. Withdrawal

Never stop taking antidepressants without first discussing with your GP, When you are ready to stop taking them you need to follow a slow decrease in dosage (known as tapering off). If you don't then it is likely that you will suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

5. What to do if they don't work.

If you don't notice an improvement with the antidepressants prescribed then go back to your GP. Antidepressants belong to a number of different families which act on different neurotransmitters in the brain. There is no test that your doctor can use to see which will work

best for you. So unfortunately it can seem like trial and error until the correct drug is identified.

Since the 1990s when the new types of antidepressants were discovered many people have benefited from their use. They are not 'happy pills' that will give you a 'high' but can stabilise your mood.

At Access Counselling we aim to provide counselling without a waiting list. In some cases this can be an alternative to taking drugs but with others it can be used in conjunction with medication.

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