The TEARS (Treatment-Emergent Adverse Reactions) of Antidepressants
Year in and year out, antidepressants rank among the most commonly prescribed classes of medications in the world. For example, from 2005-2008, only cholesterol-lowering statins and painkillers were prescribed more often than antidepressants. A 2011 report out of the National Center for Health Sciences (NCHS), Antidepressant Use in Persons 12 and Older: United States, 2005-2008, showed that 11% of Americans 12 and older take antidepressants. Of those who take such drugs, 60% have taken them for 2 or more years, with 14% having taken antidepressant medications for more than 10 years.
More recent data, though preliminary, indicate that these numbers are on the rise; indeed some surveys suggest that antidepressant drugs are now the most common class of medication prescribed in the United States.
The biological side effects of antidepressants are well known: weight gain, fatigue, nausea, constipation, and sleep disturbance.
Now, a newly published study indicates that cognitive, interpersonal, and emotional side effects may be even more common than these more familiar physical symptoms.
In the largest survey of its kind, 1829 depressed patients from New Zealand prescribed antidepressants over the past five years were questioned about the frequency of side effects they had experienced.
According to the investigators, the results of this research study, conducted by the University of Auckland and published in the journal Psychiatry Research, demonstrate that interpersonal and psychological side effects of antidepressant medications “appear to be alarmingly common:”
The study found:
· 62% of people reported experiencing sexual difficulties
· 60% reported feeling emotionally numb
· 52% reported feeling not like myself
· 42% reported a reduction in positive feelings
· 39% reported caring less about others
· 39% reported feelings of suicidality
· 55% had withdrawal effects
Moreover, 8 of the 20 adverse effects were reported by more than half the participants.
We at Integrative Psychiatry are NOT against the use of antidepressants; we prescribe them all the time. We are, however, against one-size-fits-all cookbook psychiatry. Rather, we customize treatment interventions – whether those be meds, lifestyle, supplements, medical foods, or some combination thereof – based on your specific symptoms, genetic profile, life experiences, unique biochemistry, medical history, and personal preferences.
This approach becomes even more desirable when the downside risks, the TEARs of antidepressants, as this new study illustrates, become more evident.
Adverse emotional and interpersonal effects reported by 1829 New Zealanders while taking antidepressants. Read J, Cartwright C, Gibson K. Psychiatry Res. 2014 Feb 3. pii: S0165-1781(14)00083-3.
National patterns in antidepressant treatment by psychiatrists and general medical providers: results from the national comorbidity survey replication. Mojtabai R, Olfson M. J Clin Psychiatry. 2008 Jul;69(7):1064-74.