Doctors Question the Casual Use of Anti-depressants


For years people who are experiencing the symptoms of clinical depression with a potential genetic link, or who have gone through extremely stressful situations like a death, divorce, job loss, or major illness such as, chronic kidney disease, have been prescribed anti-depressants to help them get through their day. Dr. Oz and Dr. Drew Pinksy called into question whether these pills actually work, and warning of the dangers they may present.

Here are some other risks:

·         High relapse rate within six months. Symptoms often return, creating a chronic, long-term path. Van Scheyen, J. Psychiatry, Neurologia, Neurochirugia 76 (1973):93-112.

·         Taking anti-depressants can actually make the symptoms worse. Fava, G. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 64 (2003):123-33.

·         Taking anti-depressants make it harder to qualify for insurance such as life, term, long-term care, disability and health insurance.

Mounting research is indicating that any benefit from these prescriptions are from the placebo effect. Studies published from 1980 to 2005 concluded the placebo effect was likely responsible for 68 percent of the improvement seen in patients taking anti-depressants. Another review pegged it at 84 percent. What’s more, the placebo effect appears to be growing over time.

Dr. Oz stated that part of the problem is that a serotonin imbalance, which is the main thing most anti-depressants are designed to correct, may not be the main reason most people experience depression. Also, 75% of women in the U.S. who are on anti-depressants are taking them for reasons besides depression, something called “off-label use.”

Perhaps the scariest thing is that once you are diagnosed with depression and start getting prescribed drugs to treat it, the medical records that follow you may create a stigma with any doctors you might see, and especially with your insurance company. It’s terrifying to think about, but when you are presented with very real symptoms, and the doctor knows about your mental health history, s/he may not take you as seriously. Mental health issues like depression are very real, and can be crippling, so it’s devastating to think that seeking help can create huge stigma related risks for you in the long run.

Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen recommended that a patient should try exercise, fish oil, and talk therapy to treat depression before starting a pill regimen. Anti-depressants should only be prescribed when you are experiencing feeling of depression or anxiety. An individual should visit his/her primary care physician to rule out any other physical ailments that may be causing the problem. If all other physical problems can be ruled out, then one can reasonably consider using anti-depressants. Dr. Amen stressed that anti-depressants only work for people who are truly experiencing severe depression.

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