Drugs are life-saving when they’re necessary. I can’t argue with that. But by and large, they’re over-prescribed and over-used. And most people — doctors and patients alike — don’t necessarily understand all the risks associated with taking them.
And when reports of new risks do come out? Well, sometimes I feel like I’m shouting it into the void. Because nothing ever really changes. Popular drugs stay popular… and all I can do is keep railing against them until I’m blue in the face.
Of all the drugs that fall into this category, few infuriate me quite as much as antidepressants. Because they remain one of the top ten drugs in the country, even as research continues to expose one shocking side effect after another.
Like the fact that they may quite literally kill you.
That was the conclusion of a recent meta-analysis of 17 different studies. Researchers examined the links between antidepressants, cardiovascular events, and overall mortality, in both heart patients and the general population.
They found that, among the general population, antidepressant drugs increased overall death risk by 33 per cent — and risk of heart-related events by 14 per cent. This effect went across the board, striking along all the various classes of antidepressants.
Interestingly, antidepressants had an insignificant effect on both mortality and cardiovascular events in patients with pre-existing heart disease. But researchers chalk that up to their blood thinning properties. (Obviously an off-label benefit — though it’s one that’s achievable without a daily dose of Prozac.)
Needless to say, there’s not much in this new study to reassure the one in ten Americans currently using antidepressant drugs. And with so many people popping these pills, you’d think figuring out the basic question of safety would be an urgent priority.
But that would require understanding how these drugs affect the entire body — not just the brain. And this kind of holistic investigation isn’t exactly Big Pharma’s forte, is it?
Antidepressants “work” by blocking either the serotonin transporter or the norepinephrine transporter. And while this mechanism of action may help to keep these “feel good” chemicals in your brain, antidepressants may also prevent cells in other crucial organs from taking up these biochemicals the way they normally do.
And impairing natural body chemistry this way could have dire consequences.
The bottom line is we just don’t know yet… and we need to start taking serious measures to find out — before more people see their lives cut short as a result.
Especially since this isn’t exactly a reasonable risk vs. benefit ratio we’re talking about here. Conventional wisdom still says that antidepressants are a safe and effective treatment for depression. (And who do you think brought us that particular “wisdom”?) But as usual, we’ve come to find out that this just isn’t so.
Research over the last ten years has revealed that these drugs don’t work nearly as well as we once thought. And new, deadly risks keep emerging every day.
But the good news is, clinical research also shows many natural alternatives work just as well as these popular drugs — like SAM-e, Holy Basil, St. John’s wort, 5-HTP, and probiotics — just to name a few of my favorites.
That’s why I always recommend at least trying these supplements — combined with good nutrition, sleep, and exercise — before turning to antidepressants for relief. Because no one should have to suffer with depression. And you shouldn’t have to risk your life to conquer it, either.
To your good health,
Fred Pescatore, M.D.
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