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Episode 069: The rise in prescribing for anxiety in primary care

In this episode we speak to Dr Charlotte Archer who is senior research associate in primary care mental health at Bristol Medical School at the University of Bristol.

Paper: Rise in prescribing for anxiety in UK primary care between 2003 and 2018: a population-based cohort study using Clinical Practice Research Datalink

https://doi.org/10.3399/BJGP.2021.0561

Previous studies have found substantial increases in the prescribing of antidepressants for any indication, and for depression, over the past two decades.

The current study found increases in incident prescribing for anxiety in most anxiolytic drug classes, and an increase in the number of new patients starting treatment is more likely to explain the overall increase rather than increases in long-term use. Increases in prescribing were most notable in young adults, with a marked rise in benzodiazepine prescriptions for this group. Increases in incident prescribing may reflect better detection of anxiety or an earlier unmet need; however, some of this prescribing is not based on robust evidence of effectiveness, some may contradict guidelines, and there is limited evidence on the overall impact associated with taking antidepressants long term, and therefore, there may be unintended harm.

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