WE know Scotland has a problem with alcohol, but whether we know the scale of our problem with pills is another matter. Recently, The Herald’s campaign, A Bitter Pill, has been highlighting the rise in prescriptions for anti-depressants and the online market for medications. We may not know the long-term effects of the trend, but we do know that we are popping more pills than ever.

This week, the issue will be highlighted again when a group of campaigners take their concerns to Holyrood. A petition will be lodged calling for recognition of the damage that prescription drugs can do in some cases and more support for people who are dependent on pharmaceuticals.

The petition could not be more timely. As Dr Des Spence, a GP in Maryhill in Glasgow, points out, as a public health issue, dependence on pharmaceuticals is still largely under the radar even though a record number of Scots are being prescribed anti-depressants. An official investigation is needed to establish the scale of the problem and begin the search for possible solutions.

As part of such an investigation, we must ask several difficult questions. Are we over-prescribing certain drugs and if so why? The Scottish Government also has to face another harder question about resources for the health service. Are drugs being over-prescribed because other possible solutions are too expensive?