Antidepressants were once considered a short-term therapy to help people get over a troubled time. All that changed with the debut of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, drug ads on TV and the promotion of the “chemical imbalance” theory of depression. Though there is almost no evidence of the theory––that SSRI antidepressants correct deficits in brain levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter––antidepressants became blockbusters for Pharma.
“By the mid-1990s, drug makers had convinced government regulators that when taken long-term, the medications sharply reduced the risk of relapse in people with chronic, recurrent depression,” says the New York Times.
Thanks to drug advertising and the unproven serotonin theory, the use of antidepressants has almost tripled. Only 13.4 million Americans took antidepressants in 1999–2000 ballooning to 34.4 million in 2013–4. In 2015 one in four U.S. women were on psychiatric drugs, usually antidepressants. More concerning, long-term use of antidepressants has doubled since 2010 and tripled since 2000 so that 15.5 million Americans have been taking the medications for at least five years. Yet few studies show the safety or efficacy antidepressants used long-term.
I have frequently reported on the side effects of SSRIs from birth defectsassociated with Paxil, including heart malformations, to sexual dysfunction and weight gain. The pills are also linked to serotonin syndrome when taken with migraine drugs and gastrointestinal bleeding when taken with aspirin.
One especially concerning side effect of SSRIs is bone-thinning and osteoporosis. Fracture events linked to SSRIs, especially from long-term use, have barely been researched or explored and are often dismissed by older patients as mere “aging.”