Sales of anti-depressants soar to new heights, say psychiatrists

Anti-depressants, such as the drug Prozac, that have swept countries such as the US, are also on the rise in Greece, where sales of this type of drug have increased by 80 percent over the past four years, in the form of pills, capsules and syrups. Depression robs people of the will to live. Depressed people have no desire for anything, no self-confidence and can find no joy even in life’s smallest pleasures. According to Professor Giorgios Christodoulou, president of the Greek Psychiatric Association, about 1,100,000 people in Greece today will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. «It is a disease that has serious repercussions on the life of the individual, as well as having a major effect on society,» said Christodoulou. The World Health Organization estimates that in 2020, depression will be the second most serious disease in the world after cardiovascular disease. There will be a great loss of human life, as suicide attempts will increase, as well as social and financial repercussions, since many who suffer from depression are often absent from work, if indeed they are able to work at all.» Anti-depressants are supposed to help the individual regain his or her lost equilibrium, but always under a doctor’s supervision. According to the International Marketing System, about 4,688,000 boxes of anti-depressants were sold in Greece in 2001, an increase of 78 percent since 1997. «The rise in the consumption of anti-depressants could reflect an increase in the number of Greeks suffering from the condition, but on the other hand it could be due to the fact that in recent years depression is being diagnosed more often,» said Christodoulou. «Even today, however, depression goes unrecognized, which is serious since in its extreme form it could lead to suicidal tendencies,» he added. Psychotherapy is often not enough on its own to treat depression. But only a doctor can de- termine the dosage and duration of treatment, after an examination of the patient’s medical history. Great caution is needed if the patient has a history of manic episodes, as anti-depressants could spark a recurrence of the condition. High-risk categories It is a myth that the condition only strikes individuals who are introverts. «Depression often appears in the most hardworking and conscientious people, who have a tendency to be perfectionists, who love order, who think they should try and do everything and who do not want to hurt or disappoint others. It also occurs in those who have a tendency to put pressure on themselves. This creative sector of the population is often the most vulnerable to depression,» said Professor Vassilios Alevizos of Athens University’s School of Psychiatry. But personality is not the only factor that determines whether the condition is likely to appear, he explained. Heredity (genetic predisposition) and psycho-social stress, including the loss of a loved one, divorce, competitiveness at work and fear of dismissal are two other factors. Gender also plays a role «Women present symptoms of depression more frequently than men,» said Alevizos. «One in five women is likely to suffer from depression at some time in her life, compared to one in 10 men.» The causes of the disparity are rooted in hormonal differences. Women also suffer from postpartum depression. In marriage, women usually assume more responsibilities than their husbands and in the workplace they are not often given equal recognition with men.