Antidepressants may do more harm than good, according to a review looking at the drug’s impact on the whole body.
While the drugs may be effective at alleviating depression, they have considerable side-effects.
The researchers found three studies that suggest people taking antidepressants die at a higher rate.
One study has even suggested antidepressants may increase the risk of death by 33%.
Dr Paul Andrews, the study’s first author, said:
“We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs.
It’s important because millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants each year, and the conventional wisdom about these drugs is that they’re safe and effective.”
The study found that the side-effects of antidepressants include:
- Problems with sexual stimulation and function — they also affect sperm development.
- Digestive problems like constipation, diarrhea, indigestion and bloating.
- Developmental problems in children.
- Strokes and abnormal bleeding in the elderly.
Many of these processes are regulated by serotonin.
Dr Andrews said:
“Serotonin is an ancient chemical. It’s intimately regulating many different processes, and when you interfere with these things you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it’s going to cause some harm.
The thing that’s been missing in the debates about anti-depressants is an overall assessment of all these negative effects relative to their potential beneficial effects.
Most of this evidence has been out there for years and nobody has been looking at this basic issue.”
Previous studies by Dr Andrews and colleagues have found relatively minimal benefits of antidepressants.
They have also found people were more likely to relapse after taking the drug.
Dr Andrews said:
“It could change the way we think about such major pharmaceutical drugs.
You’ve got a minimal benefit, a laundry list of negative effects — some small, some rare and some not so rare.
The issue is: does the list of negative effects outweigh the minimal benefit?”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Andrews et al., 2012).