|Tablets 521.(Photo by: Courtesy)|
'Anti-depressants may do more harm than good'
By MCMASTER UNIVERSITY
“We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs,” says McMaster evolutionary biologist.
HAMILTON, ON — Commonly prescribed anti-depressants
appear to be doing patients more harm than good, say researchers who
have published a paper examining the impact of the medications on the
“We need to be much more cautious about the
widespread use of these drugs,” says Paul Andrews, an evolutionary
biologist at McMaster University and lead author of the article,
published today in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology.
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.”
Andrews and his colleagues examined
previous patient studies into the effects of anti-depressants and
determined that the benefits of most anti-depressants, even taken at
their best, compare poorly to the risks, which include premature death
in elderly patients.
Anti-depressants are designed to relieve the
symptoms of depression by increasing the levels of serotonin in the
brain, where it regulates mood. The vast majority of serotonin that the
body produces, though, is used for other purposes, including digestion,
forming blood clots at wound sites, reproduction and development.
the researchers found is that anti-depressants have negative health
effects on all processes normally regulated by serotonin.
The findings include these elevated risks:
- developmental problems in infants
- problems with sexual stimulation and function and sperm development in adults
- digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and bloating
- abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly
authors reviewed three recent studies showing that elderly
anti-depressant users are more likely to die than non-users, even after
taking other important variables into account. The higher death rates
indicate that the overall effect of these drugs on the body is more
harmful than beneficial.
“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,” Andrews says.
Millions of people
are prescribed anti-depressants every year, and while the conclusions
may seem surprising, Andrews says much of the evidence has long been
apparent and available.
“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,” he
says. “Most of this evidence has been out there for years and nobody has
been looking at this basic issue.”
In previous research, Andrews
and his colleagues had questioned the effectiveness of anti-depressants
even for their prescribed function, finding that patients were more
likely to suffer relapse after going off their medications as their
brains worked to re-establish equilibrium.
With even the intended
function of anti-depressants in question, Andrews says it is important
to look critically at their continuing use.
“It could change the
way we think about such major pharmaceutical drugs,” he says. “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?”
McMaster University, one
of four Canadian universities listed among the Top 100 universities in
the world, is renowned for its innovation in both learning and
discovery. It has a student population of 23,000, and more than 150,000
alumni in 128 countries.
This article was first published at www.newswise.com