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Doctors should stop routinely doling out antidepressants and offer patients therapy, meditation or exercise first instead, according to new NHS guidance.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) last night ruled that patients with mild depression should be prescribed group therapy sessions before pills.

The medical watchdog said: ‘Do not routinely offer antidepressant medication as first-line treatment for less severe depression, unless that is the person’s preference.’

The draft guidance, which is subject to consultation, is the first new recommendation for depression treatment in 12 years and would apply across the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence last night ruled that patients with mild depression should be prescribed group therapy sessions before pills (stock image)

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence last night ruled that patients with mild depression should be prescribed group therapy sessions before pills (stock image)

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence last night ruled that patients with mild depression should be prescribed group therapy sessions before pills (stock image)

It has been issued amid mounting concerns about the ‘overprescription’ of antidepressants – with around 7.3million people in England taking the drugs. 

It’s part of a wider over-prescribing problem where a staggering 15 per cent of adults take five or more medications a day, and that 110million prescriptions are dished out ‘unnecessarily’ each year.

Antidepressant use increased during the pandemic as mental health problems soared. 

Official figures show one in six adults reported symptoms of depression in summer this year. However, there are concerns patients can remain hooked on antidepressants for years.

The new Nice guidance recommends therapy ahead of medication as this is clinically effective and does not have the potential side effects of antidepressants, including weight gain and sedation. 

It says patient choice is vital – and instructs doctors to offer people with mild depression a ‘menu’ of 11 different treatment options.

The guidance has been issued amid mounting concerns about the 'overprescription' of antidepressants ¿ with around 7.3million people in England taking the drugs (stock image)

The guidance has been issued amid mounting concerns about the 'overprescription' of antidepressants ¿ with around 7.3million people in England taking the drugs (stock image)

The guidance has been issued amid mounting concerns about the ‘overprescription’ of antidepressants – with around 7.3million people in England taking the drugs (stock image)

If patients do not have a preference, the first treatment choice should be group cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – which usually consists of eight weekly sessions. 

CBT helps people to understand how thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, feelings and behaviour interact and can be managed to reduce symptoms.

Other options Nice says should be offered before medication include group mindfulness, meditation and exercise classes.

Mindfulness, which has seen a boom in popularity in recent years, involves sitting silently and paying attention to sounds and the sensations of breathing.

Antidepressants are ninth on the list of 11 options for less severe depression detailed by Nice. It warns they may bring side effects, and withdrawal symptoms if patients try to stop taking them.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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