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Antidepressants SMACKED Again: Readers STUNNED, Defiant

Are antidepressants safe

If I was an antidepressant, I’d sure be looking over my shoulder these days. There was a time when they were research and media darlings, but those days appear to be gone. Once again, antidepressants have been smacked; however, reader reaction is the real story…

‘I think people would be much less willing to take these drugs if they were aware how little is known about their impact outside of the brain, and that what we do know points to an increased risk of death.’

So it was my laptop and me, peacefully searching for interesting and helpful tidbits for the cause. Out of nowhere, this piece in the Daily Mail hit me square between the eyes: “Warning for those on antidepressants: The commonly prescribed drugs raise the risk of an early death by 33%, controversial study finds.”

The article was written by medical correspondent Ben Spencer and was published September 13, 2017.

Maybe you feel like I did when I first read the headline. I didn’t believe it, and was ticked-off at the Daily Mail for baiting readers with such devastating news.

Well, let’s chill a bit and see what we’re really dealing with…

Do Antidepressants Really Increase the Risk of an Early Death?

A research team from McMaster University (Canada) conducted a meta-analysis, reviewing studies involving hundreds of thousands of people. Yes, the team determined that antidepressant (AD) users had a 33% higher chance of death than non-users.

But it doesn’t stop there, as the team determined that AD users also had a 14% higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks.

According to study lead Paul Andrews…

We are very concerned by these results. They suggest that we shouldn’t be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body.

Andrews’ concern with “how they interact with the body” is grounded in the belief that all of our major organs use serotonin (ADs most targeted neurotransmitter) from the bloodstream. That translates into ADs blocking absorption of serotonin in the heart, kidneys, lungs, liver, etc.

The researchers warn, then, that ADs could increase the risk of death by preventing multiple organs from functioning properly.

Study co-author Marta Maslej hammers the point home…

I think people would be much less willing to take these drugs if they were aware how little is known about their impact outside of the brain, and that what we do know points to an increased risk of death.

Ouch!

One last tidbit. The study team determined that ADs aren’t harmful for folk with cardiovascular diseases, given they have blood-thinning effects. The bad news is, for most people who are in otherwise good cardiovascular health, ADs lean toward the dangerous.

The Critics Corner

As you can imagine, the study didn’t go unnoticed – in many circles. Critics have vehemently questioned the results. A common observation is people using ADs are already at increased risk even before they start taking the drugs.

Professor David Baldwin, a psychiatrist at Southampton University and chairman of the psychopharmacology committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (UK) chimes in…

Unfortunately this study has major flaws. Depressed patients have higher risks of a range of physical health problems, all of which carry a risk of increased mortality, and antidepressants are often prescribed for a range of problems other than depression, including chronic pain and insomnia, which also increase mortality.

The small number of papers included in the meta-analysis included patients who were prescribed antidepressants at any dose and for any duration, but the analysis takes no account of this.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists emphasizes all medicines have side effects. And it’s up to the patient and physician – together – to decide whether the benefits of a medicine outweigh the risks.

What Did the Readers Say?

I always enjoy reading reader’s comments, and really learn tons from them. Here’s a sampling of the “defiant” comments on the Daily Mail piece…

Have taken them for about 9 years and they saved my life and massively improved my quality of life, I should have taken them when I was even younger. If this does turn out to be true I will take the quality of life over quantity any day.

I would rather die early than be depressed all the time. What good is life if you can’t enjoy it.

Reporters who do not understand how to interpret studies should not write about them. Association does not mean causality. If your study shows increased drownings on the days with increased ice cream consumption, you should not say that ice cream raises the risk of drowning. The hot weather is the hidden factor. People on depression drugs may be sicker than others to begin with.

So essentially, these researchers think people with depression should live a horrible, miserable life, just so they can live more miserable years versus a shorter, but happier, more hopeful life. Clearly these researchers haven’t personally experienced a life of overwhelming depression.

Depression and stress kill people early not antidepressants. They have a slight anticoagulant property which actually should reduce the risk of heart attack. As a physician who has prescribed them for 34 years they do a world of good as long as doses are regulated and side effects and interactions are monitored.

Now It’s Your Turn

So you have the study take-away, critic’s opinions, and reader comments. Now it’s your turn…

What’s your take? And as you’re thinking things over, consider the role of pro/con big pharma. Could it be a factor in the research, as well as critic’s opinions? Finally, if we knew for sure that antidepressants can increase the risk for early death, would you stop using them – or begin a regimen?

If you’d like to share, scroll on down to the Comments section and speak your peace…

Have at the Daily Mail piece, if you’d like.

Hundreds of Chipur titles await your perusal. Don’t be shy, dig right in.

  • Mike

    Hi Bill, the last new antidepressant I tried was viibryd. It came with an increased risk of death warning, I believe it was for risk of heart attack.

    • I don’t know how long ago that was, Mike, but I’m thinking you’re still on it – or another antidepressant.

      Interesting that the only FDA black box warning for antidepressants is, I believe, for suicidal thinking and behavior in children/teens and young adults (during initial treatment). Meds have side effects, and not just psychotropics. That’s just the way it rolls. And we make decisions based upon weighing those side effects against benefits.

      Still, the study and results, including “suitable for press” headlines and statements bug me. They just do.

      Appreciate your readership and participation, Mike…
      Bill

      P.S. Relevant link: http://chipur.com/the-antidepressant-black-box-warning-is-it-necessary-did-it-backfire/

  • Gus

    Anybody who has been on antidepressants, just like your article says, has probably experienced side effects. For those who antidepressants do not work readily, the probability of being on a mixture of pharmaceuticals is higher – either a combination of antidepressants, antidepressants and stimulants etc etc – this is the ‘polypharmacy’ approach. With an increasing number of pharmaceuticals, it gets increasingly hard to sort out what drug is causing which beneficial effect and which the side effects, or whether it is them in combination that is doing it. Its a bit of a minefield. And then there is probability of being offered drugs to counteract the side effects – such as those that ameliorate excessive sweating caused by SSRIs, or sleeping pills due to counteract the stimulation caused by anti-depressants not switching off at night time. Many antidepressants carry a risk of increasing blood pressure, and this is quite a risk for those already with this condition. It is disconcerting when the medico merely suggests that you should increase the dose of your anti-hypertensive drug as a solution – something that didn’t work for me.

    I haven’t got too many answers to this set of problems. Those suffering from serious depression will do a lot to have a normal day, including trying all sorts of medicines, just like the comment made in the article above. My partial solution, which is not a very satisfactory one, has been to take the drugs, but try to balance the cost of the side effects with the benefits. I try not to take too much, have little holidays from the drugs, and try and do natural things which are sure to have a good effect on my depression, such as exercise, doing things with groups of other people, and eating well. Part of the problem of depression is getting too caught up in your own headspace, being distracted from dwelling on things, and enjoying activities like walking in the park, dancing etc etc, is for me often just as good as a dose of a pharmaceutical. Fortunately, I have a medico who encourages me, within boundaries, to exercise my own discretion with treatment. I certainly don’t advocate that people should go against the instructions of their medico, just to try and be proactive and be an active, discerning participant in establishing better health!

    Also look out for alternative treatments when they become available – such as transcranial magnetic stimulation – this appears to have had very good effects for some people, but has restricted availability in many contexts…

    • Hey, Gus…

      You nailed it – great comment. And I’m pleased to have it here for all to read. Like it or not, such is the current state of affairs when it comes to antidepressants – all psychotropics, for that matter. So it’s up to us, with counsel of doc, to make the best decisions for self and live within a sometimes confusing context, as fully as we can. And let’s not forget ongoing “research” due diligence.

      Really appreciate your visit and contribution…
      Bill