Antidepressants: Are They Right For You?

040313Antidepressants Blog

Don’t stop taking them without consulting a psychiatrist first.

On today’s show, we’re addressing the growing problem of the over-prescription of antidepressants in our health-care system. In order to treat common medical conditions, many physicians have resorted to unnecessarily prescribing medications to patients who don’t need them. We’ve already seen this issue with pain medications and antibiotics. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it carries risks as well.

As a physician, I was taught that taking medication is like using a calculator. It’s a great tool for some problems; however, if used too often, one can become too dependent on the calculator and less able to do arithmetic on their own.

This analogy applies to antidepressants as well. Though antidepressants were designed for those who have major depressive disorder (MDD), many doctors have come to rely on antidepressants as a quick fix to treat those who don’t need them. Nearly 9% of the population gets a prescription for an antidepressant during any given month. Currently, 1 in 4 women between the ages of 40 and 60 is taking some form of antidepressant.

The majority of those medications aren’t being prescribed by a psychiatrist for a psychiatric diagnosis. Nearly 80% of all prescriptions for antidepressants are written by non-psychiatrists. Nearly 73% of these prescriptions are given without a proper psychiatric diagnosis.

This can lead to dangerous results. Recently published research suggests that antidepressants may make one more prone to depression later in life. They also may increase your risk of suicide. In 2004, the FDA required a label on antidepressants, warning of the risk of increased suicidal thinking and behavior among children and adolescents who take antidepressants.

There’s also research that suggests that antidepressants may not even work at all. Most antidepressants work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. However, there’s very little evidence that shows that depression is caused by a serotonin imbalance alone. Usually, there are other psychosocial or medical factors that play a factor in someone’s depression.

This may make you wonder if antidepressants are right for you. If you’re taking antidepressants, talk with a psychiatrist if you’re unsure about them. Don’t just stop taking them, as this can cause harm to you. If you suddenly stop taking antidepressants, it can cause a slew of side effects. You may develop antidepressant withdrawal syndrome, which can cause:

  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle Aches
  • Chills
  • Anxiety
  • Recurrent depression (with thoughts of suicide)

This comes from abruptly stopping your antidepressant medication. Because taking antidepressants alters your brain chemistry, abruptly stopping your antidepressants will also change your brain chemistry – usually abruptly.

Talk to a psychiatrist or mental-health professional about whether you should stay on your antidepressant, and don’t be afraid to get a second opinion if you feel the need to. If you don’t have access to a psychiatrist, you can also talk to a therapist or psychologist for guidance on whether or not you should take antidepressants or not.