Can I take antidepressants without a doctor's prescription

About 100 doctors and psychiatrists took part in a pan-European survey by the UK The Guardian and five other European daily newspapers - Southgerman newspaper (Germany), El Pais (Spain), Le Monde (France), Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland) and La Stampa (Italy) - involved in taking and prescribing antidepressants. The vast majority stated that their country had a "prescribing culture" because other aids for people with depression were inadequate.

Many of the doctors - from the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands - found antidepressants to be an effective treatment for cases of major depression. However, there was widespread concern among the participating doctors that normal human sensations such as sadness, melancholy or boredom would also be transformed into diagnoses and treated with medication.

"We deal with everyday situations: conflicts, separation and the vicissitudes of life," said Gladys Mujica Lezzcano, a hospital doctor from Barcelona, ​​Spain. "Antidepressants are prescribed far too lightly," says Alain Vallée, a psychiatrist in Nantes, France. "Anyone who takes an antidepressant and does not feel any effect does not think that they might not be depressed at all. Instead, the patients believe that they should take a higher-dose drug."

"In a society in which there is a low tolerance towards frustration and misery, psychiatric treatment degenerates into a consumer good," says a doctor from Spain, who wanted to provide his information anonymously. "Problems that are trivial in themselves are 'psychiatricized'. Some patients request the prescription of antidepressants for reasons such as 'my friend has left me'." José García-Valdecasas Campeso, psychiatrist in Tenerife (Spain) added: "Sadness is a normal human feeling that does not require medical treatment. Social problems should be treated on a social level and not on a psychiatric one."

Not all are joining the trend of increasing prescribing. According to Ricardo Teijeiro, who practices in the Netherlands, antidepressants are not the treatment of choice for milder forms of depression. Dutch GPs would only prescribe them to a limited extent and only for severe depression, he said.

Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) confirm this observation. In the Netherlands, antidepressant use has increased less than 25 percent since 2001 and has stabilized at a lower level over the past five years. For comparison: in Germany, Great Britain and Spain, prescriptions have doubled over the past ten years.