This week we are addressing a tough topic. We are looking at mental health and medications. Let me say that I am not opposed to people of faith taking psychiatric medications when it is appropriate and they have been properly evaluated. These drugs have been lifesaving in many cases. And I am not advocating stopping your medication.

When you Google safety of antidepressants, you will get general information saying they are relatively safe with certain exceptions. But it is important to also know that there are newer studies being done to assess the safety and effectiveness of antidepressants. And 2 of those studies do question our current thinking. As with most studies, more research is needed.

One large antidepressant effectiveness trial concluded that antidepressants failed to sustain positive effects in the majority of people who took them. This is important because while antidepressants can improve the quality of some peoples’ lives and help with severe depression, we need to better understand if taking a medication is having the desired effect. Regularly, evaluate with your doctor the effectiveness of the medications you are taking.

We know how antidepressants affect the brain, but less is known about how they impact the body. A new study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics concludes that antidepressants are not safe for the general population, but less harmful for cardiovascular patients. The reason for less harm in cardiovascular patients has to do with the anticlotting properties antidepressants have that help treat cardiovascular disease. When looking at the general population, the reviewers of several studies found that antidepressants increased risk of mortality and cardiovascular events in those patients who used antidepressants. Now, they do note that people who take antidepressants tell to be ill and ill patients do have higher risks for mortality. This could be a confounding variable in the study. And when taking any medication, you have to weigh the risks and benefits.

Both of these studies need to be replicated by other researchers given all the people currently taking antidepressants. Please remember: I am not suggesting you stop taking your antidepressants, but rather evaluate with your physician as to whether or not you are improving on your medications and ask about long-term side effects so you can make an informed decision about your treatment.

Also ask if there are other effective treatments for depression that are not medication related. Clinical depression can be debilitating and needs to be treated. People need help to improve their functioning and engage in everyday life. So, the message here is have a thoughtful conversation with your doctor and tell him or her about this on-going research.

Are antidepressants safe and effective?

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