Antidepressant prescriptions dispensed in England exceeded 70 million last year, almost double the 36 million recorded a decade ago in 2008, according to NHS Digital.

These figures also only represent NHS prescriptions, and don’t reflect the amount prescribed by private organisations or given out in hospitals.

Seventy million also represents a 5% increase in two years, up from 64.7 million in 2016.

“While antidepressants play an important role for some patients, an attitude of ‘a pill for every ill’ can mean not only do some people end up taking medicine they don’t need to, but taxpayer funding is spent on avoidable prescriptions,” said a spokesperson for NHS England.

“This is why the NHS is rolling out alternatives to medication, like 1,000 social prescribing link workers giving people care and advice tailored to their condition and, for mental health issues, the world’s most ambitious program of talking therapies which can resolve common conditions like depression and anxiety.”

Similarly, GPs prescribed diabetes medication on almost 55 million occasions, a rise of 69% in a decade, at a cost of more than £1 billion.

The news comes at a time when the NHS are putting a huge emphasis on social prescribing, aiming to alleviate pressure and unnecessary prescriptions with a primary care network social prescription plan.

Linking patients in primary care with sources of support within the community provides GPs with a non-medical referral option that can operate alongside existing treatments to improve health and wellbeing, in turn reducing pressure on GPs and the NHS, and costing significantly less than multiple medications.