Antidepressants: Do Risks Outweigh Benefits?

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The warnings on the labels are just one indication of the potential problems these drugs can cause, while natural solutions might work as well without the adverse side effects.

Antidepressants are showing up in more and more medicine cabinets these days. For some, they can be life-savers. Others seek them out because they are sensitive to their moods and are eager to recalibrate their brains as needed. And some may be searching for a perfection that just isn’t there.

On a basic level, antidepressants are used to treat mood disorders and anxiety, but much like antibiotics, they have been used as a catch-all drug, too. Doctors prescribe them not only for depression but also to treat many other conditions as well.

Obsessive-compulsion disorders, attention deficit disorder, substance abuse … these are just a few diagnoses that can result in a trip to the pharmacy. Little wonder, then, why antidepressants have become some of the most prescribed medicines in the medical world today.

So we know antidepressants are trendy, but are they safe? And are they the best way, or the only way, to treat the ailments they are designed to correct? The answers to those questions may surprise you.

For those suffering from severe depression, antidepressants can be a solution. However, finding exactly the right prescription for an individual patient is not always simple or straightforward.

There are many different types of antidepressants, and it can take six weeks before a medication takes effect. That means there may be a lot of trial and error involved in getting to the right drug and dosage level.

What’s more, treatments for depression can last for years or even a lifetime. Constant monitoring and readjustment of prescriptions may be required.

On the other hand, for those folks suffering from less severe forms of depression, the drugs may not be needed at all. According to some studies, they offer only a negligible benefit to those suffering from mild or moderate depression.

That’s of particular concern because the bulk of those being treated for depression do not exhibit severe symptoms. In one survey recently released, fully 71% of the people seeking treatment evidenced only mild depression.

In addition, there are risks. For example, antidepressants may increase the risk of suicide for younger patients. More mild side effects can include nausea, diarrhea, headaches, agitation, erectile dysfunction, lack of sexual drive, weight gain and sleep disorders.

If that sounds like the cure is worse than the disease … well, that’s a definite danger. Keep in mind also that these drugs are literally altering the chemistry of the brain, so taking this medication just to see if “maybe” it will help a little bit may not be worth the negative effects.

As it happens, natural antidepressants exist that some may find useful. St. John’s Wort has been used for centuries in this regard, and studies have shown it to be more effective than a placebo.

Acupuncture may be another solution. It has been used for centuries to treat not only headaches, hypertension and joint pain but also depression, including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke.

Even simple solutions like exercising and getting a good night’s sleep can wipe away the symptoms for some, with far less risk than pharmaceuticals.

In conclusion, antidepressants are often prescribed as a default solution for minor ailments, but there’s a lot of trial, error and chance involved to find a solution that works.

Before deciding on antidepressants, it’s smart to do some additional research and determine whether they are really what’s needed, or whether an alternative solution might offer the same benefit for less risk.

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