The Concerns of Antidepressant Use
Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Effexor; do any of these names sound familiar? Most people are acquainted with at least one of these antidepressants. Perhaps you may know someone who takes one of these medications; maybe it is you. In any case, antidepressants are one of the most prescribed medications in the world; with the number rising each year. While they are typically prescribed for short term use only, many people continue to take them; eventually becoming dependent and developing an addiction.
Basic Statistics of Antidepressants
Each year worldwide sales of prescription drugs exceed $300 billion with an estimated $76 billion accounting for anti-depressants alone. According to statistics, based on the year 2000, in the United States, Prozac sales reached $2.6 billion, Zoloft reached $1.9 billion, Paxil reached $1.8 billion, Wellbutriln $850.9 million and Effexor with $815.8 million. Keep in mind that these numbers are based on antidepressant statistics from over a decade ago; because antidepressant use has since risen, these numbers are likely to be substantially larger.
Many of the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these antidepressants spend more money in marketing the product than on actual research; leading many people to be concerned about the effectiveness and safety of the medication. Even more concerning is that many doctors are handing out antidepressant prescriptions to children; approximately 1 million children in the US were taking antidepressants in 1999. It is important to note that these medications have not been approved for children under the age of 18.
World Wide, Antidepressant Prescriptions are Being Increased
Antidepressants use is not just on the rise in the United States, in fact, a 2002 survey found that 3.5% of all people in France were being prescribed antidepressants. In the United Kingdom, the use of antidepressants has increased by 234% in the 10 years up to 2002. Between 1996 and 2004 in British Columbia, antidepressant use increased from 3.4% to 7.2% of the population. Data from 1992 to 2001 from the Netherlands indicated an increasing rate of prescriptions of antidepressants, and an increasing duration of treatment. In Sweden, 2010 statistics showed that more than 500,000 women and 257,000 men were prescribed antidepressants. While in Australia, 12 million people are have a prescription for at least one of these medications. Unfortunately, statistics in South America, Africa, and Asia are all difficult to obtain, but there is evidence of a surge in antidepressant use in these areas.
Violent and Suicidal Tendencies
A big concern with antidepressant use is that there are a percentage of users who will experience an increase in depression rather than a decrease. Additionally, there are significant side effects that certain users may experience including, violent behaviour, engaging in criminal activity, severe agitation and anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and psychosis. Anyone who is on antidepressants should be closely monitored, especially during the first two months of use, as this is the riskiest time of the side effects listed above. Some signs to indicate that the medication is making things worse include anxiety, insomnia, hostility, and agitation; it is particularly important to notice whether the symptoms appear suddenly or rapidly deteriorate. Anyone who spots these warning signs should contact their doctor immediately.
Antidepressant abuse occurs when a user does not follow, and often exceeds, the intake of the drug in terms of dosages and frequency. People who continue taking the medicine long after the treatment period has elapsed are also a prime candidate for antidepressant abuse and addiction. It is common for many individuals to have an addiction to antidepressants and not be aware of it until they forget to take their dose or they decide to come off the drug.
There are many withdrawal symptoms that will follow when an individual with an addiction decides to quit. These include headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramping, and irritability. A concern of antidepressant withdrawal is two common symptoms, depression and anxiety, both of which are often worse than the original depression that led to the use of the drug in the first place. Unfortunately, many people mistake this withdrawal symptom for a return of their original problem and resume medication, creating a never-ending cycle.
Any antidepressant user should always inform their doctor when they wish to quit. If one suspects they have an addiction to the medication; seeking treatment at a rehab can be incredibly useful.