Antidepressants, which are also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), provide benefits to those who suffer from the debilitating effects of depression. There are a number of antidepressant options available, and while they can be beneficial for some, they can also have a variety of side effects and health risks, some of which can be permanent.
There are a number of antidepressants prescribed in the US today. The most commonly prescribed medications for depression include:
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
- Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Luvox (fluvoxamine)
- Oleptro (trazodone)
- Paxil (paroxetine)
- Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Wellbutrin (bupropion)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
While there are other antidepressant medications available, these are the most commonly prescribed options.
Even though these drugs have been FDA approved for the treatment of depression and other mental health issues, they have come under fire due to their side effects. While some of these effects are mild or go away after taking the medication for a short period, others have long-term effects that can be devastating for some patients. The following are some of the potential issues that antidepressant medications may cause.
Physical Side Effects
There are some physical side effects associated with antidepressants. Many of them are temporary and considered mild, but others cause considerable concern. The most common physical side effects include:
- Joint Pain
- Muscle Pain
- Stomach Upset
Another more serious physical side effect is a reduction in blood clotting due to reduced serotonin in the blood. This can cause uterine, and stomach bleeding and many patients also require blood transfusions either during surgical procedures or right afterwards. This risk is doubled when patients are taking an antidepressant and an NSAID pain medication such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen.
Sexual Side Effects
Antidepressants are also known to cause significant sexual side effects in men and women. These can include:
- Loss of interest or desire
- Diminished performance
- Decreased satisfaction
- Delayed or inhibited ejaculation
- Decreased vaginal lubrication
- Erectile dysfunction
- Clitoral engorgement
Physiological changes often occur with antidepressant use as well. Some of these involuntary movements may go away on their own, but others become life-long issues that remain even after the drug use is stopped:
- Dyskinesia – Uncontrollable, repetitive muscle movements
- Parkinson’s Disease – Trembling or rigid limbs, loss of fine motor control and shuffling gait
- Muscle Spasms
- Akathisia – Severe restlessness or agitation, and may cause an increase in violent behavior and suicide
The risks associated with antidepressants and an increased risk of suicide or thoughts of suicide are well known in both children and adults. Studies have shown that children who are prescribed SSRIs have a suicide risk three times greater than those who don’t take the medications. The risk for adults is up to four times higher than those receiving a placebo.
Antidepressant use has also been shown to increase certain risks during pregnancy. These risks include premature delivery, low birth rate, miscarriage and stillbirth. However, there are also several side effects that may occur in the baby after birth, including:
- Respiratory Distress
- Heart Defects
- Neurodevelopmental Abnormalities
- Brain Damage
- Uncontrollable Crying
While the risk for some of these side effects of antidepressants is low in some cases, they are still cause for significant concern. Medications for depression continue to undergo research and study to determine the full extent of the dangers associated with these medications. If you or your child suffered from any of these side effects after taking antidepressants, you should consider contacting an attorney to determine your legal rights.