Millions of People Are Taking Antidepressants, Millions Can’t Quit

Dr. Greger says “we may be able to prevent or treat depression” by changing the food we eat. I’m skeptical. After reading this article, I’m even more skeptical.

Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit, New York Times, 7 April 2018

More than 34.4 million adults took antidepressants in 2013-2014, up from 13.4 million in 1999-2000. … Nearly 25 million adults have been on antidepressants for at least two years, a 60 percent increase since 2010.

This is a lot of people. And these are just the people who seek help for depression. You could say they are the tip of the suffering iceburg. Two years is also a long time to be on these drugs:

Antidepressants were originally considered a short-term treatment for episodic mood problems, to be taken for six to nine months: enough to get through a crisis, and no more.

Six to nine months. And yet nearly 7% of American adults have taken them for at least 5 years:

The authors say that people are on them so long because the withdrawal symptoms are so bad. “Yet the medical profession has no good answer for people struggling to stop taking the drugs.” The pharmaceutical industry has no good answer either, for what they call “discontinuation syndrome,” their sanitized phrase for withdrawal, because … profit.

Drug makers had little incentive to mount costly studies of how best to quit their products, and federal funding has not filled the research gap.

Many people probably don’t need to be on antidepressants at all:

“Most people are put on these drugs in primary care, after a very brief visit and without clear symptoms of clinical depression,” said Dr. Allen Frances, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at Duke University. “Usually there’s improvement, and often it’s based on the passage of time or placebo effect.”

I don’t think this is mostly a problem with older white women as this graph suggests, I just think older white women have the inclination and the resources to get the pills.

Withdrawal symptoms include balance problems, dizziness, headache, confusion, nausea, irritability, crying spells, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and something called paresthesia — electric-shock sensations in the brain that many people call brain zaps. These can continue for months or years after the drug is stopped. Even people in the field don’t recognize the risk:

“It took me a year to come completely off — a year,” said Dr. Tom Stockmann, 34, a psychiatrist in East London, who experienced lightheadedness, confusion, vertigo and brain zaps, when he stopped taking Cymbalta after 18 months.

I wonder this too:

“We’ve come to a place, at least in the West, where it seems every other person is depressed and on medication,” said Edward Shorter, a historian of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. “You do have to wonder what that says about our culture.”

Also … The government says that depression is a mental illness. President Trump said that mental illness leads to gun violence (although doctors disagree). Does this mean that people who are being treated for depression should not be allowed to buy or own a gun?

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