HAMILTON, Ontario — Antidepressant users are often warned of the various side effects from the vast selection of meds on the market, but a shocking new study finds that people who use antidepressants have a much higher risk of death than non-users.
Researchers at McMaster University in Canada conducted a meta-analysis examining hundreds of thousands of antidepressant users, finding that their risk of death was 33 percent higher than that of their peers.
Meanwhile, their likelihood of sustaining an adverse cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, was also elevated by 14 percent.
“We are very concerned by these results,” says researcher Paul Andrews in a university news release. “They suggest that we shouldn’t be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body.”
Antidepressants, particularly the oft-prescribed “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,” or SSRIs, help increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain by blocking what’s known as the “reuptake” or reabsorption process of serotonin, making more available. Yet the researchers say that antidepressants also block the absorption of serotonin in the body’s major organs too, inhibiting their proper functioning and perhaps leading to an increased mortality risk.
Since one in eight adult Americans take antidepressants, many of whom have no formal depression diagnosis, perhaps physicians need to begin weighing the risk of short-term risk of mood fluctuation against the long-term risk of death associated with taking medication.
Some of the study’s researchers say that many simply assume antidepressants are completely safe to take, which they wish to dispel.
“Our findings are important because they undermine this assumption,” argues co-author Marta Maslej. “I think people would be much less willing to take these drugs if they were aware how little is known about their impact outside of the brain, and that what we do know points to an increased risk of death.”
Pointing to a need to protect the safety of future generations, the researchers believe there is still research to be done.
The study’s findings were published online last week in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.