Almost 10,000 people in Mayo are being prescribed anti-depressants and anxiety pills under the General Medical Services Scheme, a new report has shown.
However, the total number of people taking such medications is likely to be much higher as that figure does not include private patients who do not spend enough on drugs each month to qualify for the Drugs Repayment Scheme.
Nor does it include patients under the Drugs Payment Scheme or Long Term Illness Scheme
The special investigation report on Ireland’s pill use was published in yesterday’s Irish Examiner.
The report was written following an analysis of the prescription rates for five of the leading anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs in Ireland in 2012 under the General Medical Services Scheme (which covers medical card holders ).
The report showed 7.3 per cent of the Mayo population (9,543 ) is being prescribed anti-depression and anxiety tablets under the scheme but that figure rises to 14.1 per cent for medical card holders.
The total cost to the State in Mayo is more than €1.1 million annually and €40 million nationally.
One of the most prescribed drugs was diazepam (known as the brand name Valium or Anxicalm ).
Diazepam is used to treat conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, seizures, and hallucinations resulting from alcohol withdrawal.
Some 2,820 patients in Mayo were prescribed the drug in 2012.
The second most prescribed anti-depressant/anxiety drug was escitalopram, an anti-depressant used to treat major depressive episodes, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD ).
The number of patients prescribed escitalopram was 2,416 in 2012.
Other commonly prescribed drugs were alprazolamn, often under the brand name Zanax, which is used to treat anxiety; and anti-depressant drugs venlafaxine and mirtazapine.
Nationally, the report found there were almost 2.3 million prescriptions written in 2012 for the top five anti-depressants/anti-anxiety pills, at a cost of some €40 million.
The Irish Examiner report states there are wide variations in some cases in prescriptions rates on a county by county.
For example, Limerick has the highest rate nationally of people being prescribed anti-depression and anxiety pills under the General Medical Services Scheme. One in 10 of the total population are being prescribed such drugs.
This is contrasted against Dublin South, where the rate falls to 4.3 per cent of the population.