From our correspondent
“I felt like my whole life was slipping away from me… that I would never be able to get out of it,” recalls Alâra, 53, a former ballet dancer. Looking far away, short of breath, she digs into her memory and tries to recount the hellish years that are now behind her.
“I went to see Dr. Kiliç. First she put me on antidepressants. I tested different brands to find the right one for me. In a fortnight, I was already much better, ”she continues. Alâra then underwent therapy for several months. Since then, this woman has made this dark episode a source of learning. She now runs a health center in the conservative district of Üsküdar, where she helps her patients reconnect with their bodies and overcome their discomfort, through hypnosis and physical practice.
Prozac, Lustral, Xanax… Antidepressants are widely used in Turkey. In a favored high school in central Istanbul, 40% of the school’s students declared themselves to be depressed during a survey in 2021-2022. According to data from the Turkish Psychiatric Association, the number of boxes of antidepressants sold was 60 million in 2021, compared to 14 million in 2003. These figures corroborate the increase noted by the Ministry of Health, which notes a 70% increase between 2009 and 2020. The number of patients using antidepressants increased from 29% in 2009 to 49% in 2020.
Professors Burhannettin Kaya and Halis Ulas, of the Psychiatric Association, note: “Unemployment, fear of losing their job, overwork and stress at work, including uncertainty about the future, exposure to direct or indirect trauma… Patients experience difficulties and seek help. »
In their daily practice, psychiatrists and pharmacists make the same observation: “One in four patients who enters my pharmacy comes to get antidepressants,” says Ayfer Çakmak, who works in the district of Atasehir. For psychiatrist Emine Kiliç, this increase is also explained by better consideration of psychological discomfort by the health system, but also by the repeated use of drugs, to the detriment of therapies that are often long and too costly for patients.
For many practitioners, the official figures are underestimated because, although the legislation requires the presentation of a prescription, the controls are often random. The sale of antidepressants is more permissive in practice, especially on presentation of old prescriptions. And the congestion of public hospitals prevents patients from getting appointments quickly, says pharmacist Ayfer Çakmak.
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