Are anti-depressants killing us?

As regular readers will know I suffered through almost every type of anti-depressant that there is.

Eventually I ended up on a cocktail of Venlafaxine and Zyban, plus addicted to sleeping tablets.

Though they work for a lot of people and provide relief, they caused me nothing but angst, side-effects and trouble.

Peter Gotzsche, founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, is visiting Australia to talk about dangers of prescription drugs and has written a piece in?the?Sydney Morning Herald.

Peter Gotzsche, a co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, the world’s foremost body in assessing medical evidence, arrives in Australia on Monday for a whirlwind speaking tour warning Australians about their use of prescription medications.

He estimates that 100,000 people in the United States alone die each year from the side-effects of correctly used drugs. Similar figures are not available in Australia, although the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates that 3000 people died after complications with medical and surgical care in 2012.

“It’s remarkable that nobody raises an eyebrow when we kill so many of our own citizens with drugs,” Professor Gotzsche, who heads the Nordic Cochrane Centre, told Fairfax Media ahead of his visit.

Two of Professor Gotzsche’s biggest targets are antidepressants and the painkillers described as “non-steroidal anti-inflammatories”, such as ibuprofen, diclofenac and celecoxib. Another, sold under the brand name Vioxx, was withdrawn after it emerged it had caused up to 140,000 cases of serious heart disease in the US alone in the five years it was on the market – during which time its manufacturer, Merck was withholding information about its risks. About half the cases were thought to be fatal.

Professor Gotzsche says those deaths are only the tip of the iceberg and are representative of a system of drug regulation that simply does not protect patients.

Even the name for these drugs, “anti-inflammatory”, is not supported by evidence, he says. He has conducted a clinical trial and review of the evidence that has found there is no proof they reduce inflammation.

He also takes aim at anti-depressants.

In a paper last year in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, Professor Gotzsche argued our use of antidepressants is causing more harm than good.

He said as the evidence against drugs such as Valium and Xanax emerged, they have been replaced with antidepressants that are equally as addictive and their side-effects just as dangerous.

Furthermore, he says research that showed small benefits over placebos was biased, as it did not properly hide whether patients were in the active or placebo group.

Professor Gotzsche said the biggest victims of over-prescription are the elderly. For every 28 elderly people treated for a year with an antidepressant, one will die who would have lived otherwise,?from causes including heart attacks, stroke and falls.

“Those who use arthritis drugs are mostly the elderly who are most at risk of dying of a heart attack caused by the drug or a bleeding ulcer,” he said. “We have a high use of psychiatric drugs by the elderly and we kill an enormous amount of them.”

Freedom-of-information requests lodged by Fairfax Media have shown more than 4 million antidepressant prescriptions a year are recorded for people aged over 67 – twice the rate for young Australians.

“These people get shoved in a nursing home and they get aggravated, so they’re knocked out with an antipsychotic drug – it’s very inhumane,” Professor Gotzsche said.

Professor Gotzsche has been criticised for his stance that people should consider slowly going off their antidepressants if they are supported by their doctors in doing so.

He believes many doctors mistake withdrawal symptoms for depression, immediately returning patients to their normal medication dose if they experience symptoms, despite the fact antidepressant medications are supposed to take some time to begin working.

“If you get depressed by lowering the dose and then immediately increase it to the normal dose, you will usually be well in a couple of hours,” he said. “But if you get better straight away it is withdrawal, not depression.”

One of the hardest things I have ever done was come off anti-depressants. He concludes that anti-depressants don’t even work for severe depression and in my case I agree with him.

Look, I’m not against them, if they work for you fine, just be fully aware that they don’t work for everyone…and they aren’t a cure…I had to find my own cure, and that involved fitness, vitamins, and changing the way I live.

I always considered drugs to be a band-aid only…I spent 7 years trying to get better…and it wasn’t until I ditched the drugs that I finally did, even though i must constantly be on guard against depression coming back.

 

– Sydney Morning Herald

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