Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tonic or Toxin: Side Effects of Antidepressants

medicine, pills, drugs, antidepressants, depression, healthy, suicide, therapy
As my wife and I watch tv, we occasionally see a commercial for the latest and greatest pharmaceutical. We inevitably end up laughing at the dozens of side effects listed for a drug meant to treat one condition. You may have a drug for the treatment of a skin rash that has side effects like blood clots, seizures, sexual dysfunction, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, blindness and maybe death! As scientists attempt to alter one chemical in the body, they wind up affecting other physiological systems and natural functions. This is also true for psychotropic (psychoactive or psycho-pharmaceutical) drugs. After 25+ years of SSRI prescriptions, current studies are showing both the immediate and long-term side effects of these substances, much to the dismay of pharmaceutical companies, doctors and patients.
Why would companies continue to produce medication that is considerably ineffective and potentially harmful to their customers? According to IMS Health, sales of antidepressants in the United States alone surpassed $11 billion in 2010. That sounds like a lot of reasons to sell such products. The responsibility for the surge in sales lies with all involved - the pharmaceutical companies, the doctors and us, the consumers. Making an informed decision needs to be one of our top goals before taking any pill, especially one that is going to alter your mind. Even if a doctor recommends medication, take the time to learn about what it may, or may not, do to your mind and body. Discuss your findings with your physician and also discuss a time frame for cessation of treatment. Even if you need the medication to address an immediate need, especially a mild condition, that doesn't mean you should become dependent on it for the rest of your life.
Not only can the side effects from antidepressants be dangerous, but the effectiveness of the drugs tends to have declining results over time. Longitudinal (long-term) follow-up studies show very poor outcomes for people treated for depression in both hospital and outpatient settings, and the overall prevalence of depression is rising despite increased use of antidepressants (Moncrieff & Kirsch 2006).

Here are some of the most common side effects of antidepressants:
  • amotivational syndrome - a psychological condition associated with diminished inspiration to participate in social situations and activities, with episodes of apathy (also stated as a general syndrome of indifference)
  • heart problems
  • hostility/aggression/violence
  • sleep problems
  • anxiety
  • hallucinations/delusional thinking
  • depression
  • sexual dysfunction
  • birth defects
  • suicide/risk/attempts -  this is a warning to be taken seriously for adults and children taking SSRI's
  • additional medication necessary - often, doctors will prescribe more drugs to treat the side effects associated with antidepressants which can add additional problems
This is not an exhaustive list nor does it address the various conditions associated with the prescription of antidepressants. The main goal of this piece is to raise awareness of the seriousness of side effects from psychotropic medications and to encourage consumers to be more proactive and in control of their health care.
Follow the links below for additional reading on this subject.