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Journal article calls for new definition of ‘antidepressant’

In a recent article in the scientific journal Scientifica, two mental health professionals call for a redefinition of the term “antidepressant.”

David Antonuccio, psychologist at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Nevada School of Medicine, and David Healy, psychiatrist at the Department of Psychological Medicine, Bangor University in the UK, argue that the term “antidepressant” simply doesn’t apply to medications that cause symptoms including sexual dysfunction and suicidal thoughts for users.

The article states: “To call these medications antidepressants may make sense from a marketing standpoint but may be misleading from a scientific perspective. Consumers deserve a label that more accurately reflects the data on the largest effects and helps them understand the range of effects from these medications.”

As Antonuccio and Healy point out, antidepressants have become “incredibly popular,” with worldwide revenue estimates for the drugs topping $20 billion in 2008, and an estimated 1 in 8 adult Americans taking one in the prior 10 years.

But some research in recent years have raised concerns among medical professionals, including studies linking pregnant women’s use of antidepressants classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, with potentially deadly heart and lung defects in newborns. SSRI antidepressants include Prozac and Zoloft.

Based on research linking antidepressants with a number of side effects, Antonuccio and Healy released the following criteria for medications that could be properly termed “antidepressants.”

  • An antidepressant should not interfere with sexual functioning. Loss of interest in pleasurable activities such as sex is one symptom of depression, so Antonuccio and Healy find it “odd” that a medication resulting in a loss of interest in sex could be labeled an antidepressant.
  • An antidepressant should not increase suicidal thoughts and attempts. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration analysis of antidepressants trials in 4,400 depressed young people found that antidepressants doubled the risk of “suicidality,” or suicidal thoughts and suicidal attempts, which occurred in approximately 4 percent of those taking antidepressants compared with 2 percent of those taking a placebo.
  • An actual antidepressant should be clearly superior to a placebo, which numerous studies indicate is not the case with popular medications including Prozac and Zoloft.
  • An actual antidepressant should not increase anxiety and agitation.
  • An actual antidepressant should offer a risk/benefit balance that exceeds alternatives.
  • An actual antidepressant should not increase depression chronicity, or relapse.

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with an SSRI lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries from SSRIs.

See the article here: