Millions of prescriptions for powerful antipsychotics are handed out each year to treat conditions including insomnia and anxiety, putting patients at risk of severe side-effects and dangerous withdrawal reactions.
Prescriptions for quetiapine, the antipsychotic most commonly prescribed for insomnia, more than doubled from 1.6 million to 3.5 million in the ten years to 2018, NHS figures show.
Side-effects of antipsychotics include shaking, intense sleepiness, weight gain, blurred vision and an increased risk of diabetes. Incorrect withdrawal of the drugs can induce severe symptoms, including psychotic episodes.
Three quarters of a million people were prescribed antipsychotics last year, about half of which were thought to have been “off label” — using a drug in a different way from that described in the licence. In the UK