About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland updates the information on medicines used in mental health in Scotland between 2010/11 and 2019/20. Data on five types of drugs are included: hypnotics and anxiolytics (used to treat insomnia and anxiety), antipsychotics and related drugs, antidepressants, drugs used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and drugs for the treatment of dementia. These data are based on community prescribing and exclude hospital usage.

Main points

  • The dispensed volume of antipsychotics, antidepressants, drugs for ADHD and drugs for dementia has been steadily increasing over the past ten years. Dispensed volume of hypnotics and anxiolytics has slightly decreased over the past ten years.
Image caption Mental Health prescribing between 2010 to 2011 and 2019 to 2020
Mental health prescribing between 2010 to 2011 and 2019 to 2020
  • The cost to NHS Scotland for antidepressants and ADHD drugs has increased in the past ten years, which reflects an increase in usage and for antidepressants the impact of shortages and price adjustments. The cost for dementia drugs has decreased in the past ten years, primarily due to reductions in drug prices and drugs coming out of patent. Costs of antipsychotics and of hypnotics and anxiolytics has been more variable over the past ten years due to periods of drug shortages.
  • All of the mental health drugs considered in this report show higher use of mental health drugs by people living in more deprived areas. For dementia drugs this pattern is less pronounced. This corresponds with evidence that people living in deprived areas report poorer mental wellbeing.
  • For four out of the five groups of mental health medicines there are substantially more medicines dispensed to females than males. The exception to this is ADHD, where almost 80% of dispensing is to males.


Information on drugs which are indicated for mental health conditions is obtained from NHS prescriptions that are prescribed in Scotland and that are dispensed in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. All these prescriptions are dispensed by community pharmacies and dispensing doctors. GPs write the vast majority of these prescriptions with the remainder written by authorised prescribers such as nurses and dentists. The figures include prescriptions written in hospitals that were dispensed in the community, but exclude prescriptions dispensed within hospitals and prisons. Items which are purchased over the counter are excluded.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 26 October 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.prescribing@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 28 June 2021
Was this page helpful?