Prescriptions for mental health drugs such as antidepressants and antipsychotics have hit a ten-year high amid concerns over soaring demand for services.
New figures reveal that the number of medicines doled out in Scotland has increased by 72 per cent since 2005, while prescriptions rose by 5 per cent last year.
The rise comes despite a high-profile SNP promise to curb the increase in antidepressant prescribing back in 2007.
Prescriptions of antipsychotic drugs have risen by nealy 50 per cent in the last decade from 626,210 items in 2005-6 to 927,875 last year.
Women received more mental health drugs than men, except for ADHD medication, as female patients made up 54.7 per cent of patients who received treatment with drugs for psychoses and related disorders last year.
The figures prompted concern that prescription of drugs to treat mental health may be being used to cover up shortages in other kinds of therapy.
Waiting times for psychological therapies regularly exceed the 18-week target, which was met by only five of Scotland’s 14 health boards in June.
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Prescription drugs will always have their place when it comes to treating mental health, however if doctors are prescribing them due to a lack of other options then that is not good for patients.
“Mental health treatment should consist of a range of options and drugs can’t cover for shortages in the availability of therapies.
“This is further proof that a step change in how we treat mental health is long overdue.”
Prescribing rates were higher in poorer areas as major risk factors include poor education, unemployment and social isolation.
Doreen Graham, of the Edinburgh charity Health in Mind, said demand for its information services had already risen by 8 per cent so far this year.
She said: “The more we try to talk about it, the more it is brought to a community level where people are comfortable talking about it.
“People can be frightened of a diagnosis but there is so much help out there now. It’s about knowing where to look.”
Mental health minister Maureen Watt defended the government’s record on mental health, as the number of people starting treatment for psychological therapies has risen by almost 30 per cent since 2014-15.
She said: “These figures reflect the fact that more people are coming forward to seek help from their GPs for problems such as depression as the stigma surrounding mental health declines – something the Scottish Government has been working hard to achieve.
“Mental health is an absolute priority of this government and people with mental illness should expect the same standard of care as people with physical illness and should receive medication if they need it.”