National Antidepressant Death Awareness Month

October is well-known for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Everywhere you go, pink ribbons abound. But a lesser known yet equally important observance, also held each October, is National Antidepressant Death Awareness Month. Created to call attention to people who have suffered injury or death as a result of antidepressant use, the annual campaign is significant because anti-depressants are so widely prescribed. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), antidepressants are one of the three most commonly used therapeutic drug classes in the United States. The New York Times reports that nearly 25 million Americans have been taking antidepressants for at least two years. 

Types of Antidepressants  

​​1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) 
2. Serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
3. Tricyclic (TCAs)
4. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), which were among the earliest treatments for depression  
5. Noradrenaline and specific serotoninergic antidepressants (NASSAs)

Physician Use  ​

​Doctors prescribe these medications for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) depression, social anxiety disorders, seasonal affective disorder, personality disorders, dysthymia, mild chronic depression, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia and chronic neuropathic pain. The pills effectively block an enzyme (monoamine oxidase), which increases brain chemicals relative to mood. They may also correct chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain responsible for mood and behavior changes. 

Side Effects

Although patients who take these medications often experience profound relief, liberation comes at a cost. Possible side effects range from mild (dry mouth), to the most serious – suicidality in children and adolescents. Less alarming side effects include: 
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Weight gain

Serious Consideration

For more serious contraindications, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requires that a black box warning appear on every dispensed prescription. The strictest available caution, this reflects the fact that these medications may pose serious potentially life-threatening risks. ​

The FDA requires inclusion of the following points in black box warnings:

  • Antidepressants increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children and adolescents with MDD and other psychiatric disorders.
  • Anyone considering the use of an antidepressant in a child, adolescent (or adult) for any clinical use must balance the risk of increased suicidality with the clinical need.
  • Patients who start therapy should be observed closely for clinical worsening, suicidality, or unusual changes in behavior.
  • Families and caregivers should closely observe the patient and communicate with the prescriber.

Help for the Hurting

​While antidepressants can successfully address mental health issues, it’s important to weigh the associated risks against potential benefits to each patient. At MFI Recovery Center, our clinicians and counselors treat the whole person – mind, body and soul, using evidence-based programs throughout the entire recovery process. If you or someone you know could use help with depression, contact us today (866) 218-4697.

About MFI

​Throughout 10 facilities in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, we employ the Matrix Model, creating a personalized treatment program for each client. Various modalities can include behavior modification, 12-Step program introduction, cognitive behavioral therapy, and family systems techniques, including the family in group therapy. Treatment options include outpatient and inpatient detox, medication management (if appropriate), group therapy, individual therapy, relapse prevention education, and ongoing support after treatment. To find out more, call (866) 218-4697, or for non-admission related information (951) 683-6596.

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