A new study published in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology calls into question the effectiveness of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant drugs like Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft, stating that the dangers (antidepressant side effects) can outweigh the benefits to many who take them.
Antidepressants are prescribed to millions of people every year, who generally believe they are taking a medication that is both safe and effective. This belief, however, has been called into question by recent data, which shows that antidepressants lack effectiveness and can cause neuronal damage, developmental problems, sexual side effects, and an increased risk of bleeding, stroke, and death amongst the elderly. According to the authors of the new study, antidepressants appear to do more harm than good.
The study, entitled “Primum non nocere: an evolutionary analysis of whether antidepressants do more harm than good,” was conducted by researchers at McMaster University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Virginia.
The researchers looked at previous studies of patient reactions while taking antidepressants to determine how the drugs affect the body as well as the brain. Antidepressants have a long list of reported side effects, including birth defects in babies exposed to SSRIs in utero, suicide, aggression, sexual side effects, and gastrointestinal problems. These side effects, researchers believe, exist due to the drug’s disruption of the mechanisms in the body that regulate serotonin levels. Serotonin is a natural chemical that regulates many different processes in the body. According to the researchers in this study, when you interfere with serotonin levels, it can cause harm.
“The thing that’s been missing in the debates about antidepressants is an overall assessment of all these negative effects relative to their potential beneficial effects,” said lead author of the study Paul Andrews. The primary intended benefit of taking an antidepressant is to reduce depression symptoms, but the researchers suggest that the brain’s response to serotonin disruption is to “push back” in a way that reduces the drug’s effectiveness. In addition, the study’s authors believe that taking antidepressants can actually increase the brain’s susceptibility to depression in the future.
The results of this study suggest that, “in general, antidepressants are neither safe nor effective; they appear to do more harm than good[.]” The authors of the Frontiers in Psychology study conclude that, “altered informed consent practices and greater caution in the prescription of antidepressants is warranted.” It also seems prudent, based on mounting evidence, to revise the status of antidepressants in the standard of care for diagnosing and treating depression.