A huge international study has sought to put to rest the debate about whether antidepressants help relieve severe depression in adults. According to the study published recently in the medical journal The Lancet, antidepressants do work, with some showing better results than others. However, researchers pointed out that only one in six individuals with depression in the developed world and one in 27 in developing countries receive professional treatment.
“Antidepressants are an effective tool for depression. Untreated depression is a huge problem because of the burden to society,” said study’s lead author Andrea Cipriani from the University of Oxford. However, the study found some differences in the efficacy of the 21 drugs mainly used to treat depressive symptoms. Generally, newer antidepressant drugs are better due to fewer side effects, the study team observed.
Cipriani said it took the team six years to complete the study, which includes all published and unpublished data. The study was conducted by a team of international experts who examined the results of over 500 trials involving either a drug as opposed to a placebo or drawing a comparison between two different medicines. Cipriani also believes that the debate over antidepressants is more of a matter of ideology with some patients and doctors doubting their effectiveness while pointing to the big placebo effect. In fact, while conducting these trials, the researchers even observed that those given dummy pills showed signs of improvement.
According to the study, Prozac – now known by its generic name fluoxetine – was the least effective but best tolerated antidepressant, while amitriptyline, which was the sixth best tolerated antidepressant, emerged as the most effective drug. However, Cipriani said that the trial data cannot suggest which drug would work the best in the case of any specific individual. The researchers added that most of the drugs used in the study belong to a class of medicines known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which act on the brain by increasing the levels of serotonin.
Antidepressants are not limited to treating depression. They are also prescribed to treat obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although, they aren’t as addictive as alcohol, heroin or other drugs, abusing them can lead to physical dependence. Studies show that individuals hooked on antidepressants are more likely to abuse other stimulants.
Generally available as oral pills or capsules, antidepressants impact mood in a positive way by interacting with serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. On the flipside, the relaxant properties of antidepressants could cause a psychological dependence in users, especially if they have experienced relief from severe depression after using the pills. Similar to most drugs, repeated use of antidepressants can result in high tolerance levels. The more tolerance users develop for an antidepressant, the greater the urge to use the drug.
Combating addiction to depressants in US
Commonly known as “downers,” antidepressants act on the neurotransmitters in the brain to suppress the central nervous system (CNS). Though they produce a calming effect in patients suffering from depressive or sleep disorders, extended use can get people addicted to them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 12.7 percent people aged 12 and above took antidepressants in the past month during 2011-2014. Along with depressants, opioids and stimulants form the most widely abused prescription drugs in the U.S.
Overdosing on antidepressants can cause drug-fueled delirium, disorientation, lowered blood pressure, reduced pulse rate, and cognitive impairments. If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction to antidepressants or any other prescription sedatives, contact Sovereign Health. Clinicians at our world-class depressant addiction treatment centers in California are trained to identify the underlying causes and prescribe customized treatments as well as group psychotherapy based on a patient’s requirements. You may call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our counselors for more information on our evidence-based treatments for depressant addiction.