Commonly prescribed anti-depressants appear to be doing patients more harm than good, say researchers who have published a paper examining the impact of the medications on the entire body.
Andrews and his colleagues examined previous patient studies into the effects of anti-depressants and determined that the benefits of most anti-depressants, even taken at their best, compare poorly to the risks, which include premature death in elderly patients.
What the researchers found is that anti-depressants have negative health effects on all processes normally regulated by serotonin.
The findings include these elevated risks:
- developmental problems in infants
- problems with sexual stimulation and function and sperm development in adults
- digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and bloating
- abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly [emphasis mine]
I know people who treat antidepressants like Tylenol. A bit sad this month? Zoloft! 2 months later they feel fine and stop taking it (usually cold turkey) and can't figure out why they're in these depression cycles. As much as they are over prescribed, more attention needs to be paid to how badly these drugs are abused by the people who choose to take them. It's antibiotics all over again.
Just as with any medication, the benefits and risks should be weighed out. I have taken an SSRI for over 20 years and have fairly robust health. I suffered severe depression until my late twenties. I had had suicidal ideation for as long as I could remember. After years and years of trying every other available option, including yoga, meditation, organic diet (and other diets), self hypnosis, tons of self-help books, assertiveness training, all kinds of supplements, physical workout routines, and the application of every psychotherapy strategy I could find... I let my doctor talk me in to a trail on anti-depressants.
The medication literally changed my life. I moved from the bottom to the top producer in my office. I returned to grad school and had changed from being a C/D student to finishing with a 4.0. My sleeping and eating stabilized for the first time in my life. I felt like I had been dragging a boulder around and suddenly I was released. All of the work I had done to deal with my depression was finally able to take root. I remember thinking, "This is how normal people feel!?" My functioning did not just improve, I became (and remain) higher functioning than most of my peers.
All that said, my dramatic response to antidepressants is not typical and the SSRI medications are terribly over-prescribed. Any medical treatment should be delivered in a professional and least intrusive manner. However, most folks are extremely resistant to getting any kind of help for emotional problems and even more so for psychiatric treatment. I wonder how many sufferers of severe depression have chosen to remain sick (or to die) because of pride and/or shame. The brain is the most complex item in the known universe. It is also a physical organ with potential malfunctions like any other organ.