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picture1(Telegraph) Patients on antidepressants for 50 per cent longer than in 1990s

The average patient now takes antidepressants for 50 per cent longer than they did in the 1990s with some staying on pills for decades, a new study has shown.

The prescribing of antidepressants is currently rising at around seven per cent a year, which has led to fears that depression is on the rise, or that doctors are handing out pills too liberally.

But although the numbers of prescriptions has rocketed, since 2001 the number of people taking the drugs has largely plateaued.

What is behind the increase is the growing number of people who are staying on antidepressants for years at a time, or asking to return to pills when times are tough, a new study has shown.

The average time that a person is on drugs is now nearly six months (169 days) compared to just under four months (112 days) in 1995.  One in four users take pills for an average of 15 months compared with eight months 20 years ago, according to a study by UCL published in The British Journal of Psychology.

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