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Antidepressants Do More Harm Than Good

Update Date: Apr 26, 2012 01:06 AM EDT

Antidepressants do patients more harm than good, according to a new study.

The researchers at McMaster University, Canada, examined previous studies about the effects of antidepressants and found that harmful side effects of commonly prescribed antidepressants can include stroke and premature death and far outweigh the minimal benefits

"We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs," says Paul Andrews, evolutionary biologist at McMaster, who led the study. "It's important because millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants every year, and the conventional wisdom about these drugs is that they are safe and effective." 

Antidepressants are designed to ease depression by increasing the level of serotonin, a mood regulator that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. 

The vast majority of serotonin that the body produces, though, is used for other purposes, including digestion, forming blood clot at wound sites, reproduction and development.

Andrews and his colleagues found that antidepressants hinder serotonin regulation and can cause developmental problems in infants, problems with sexual stimulation, sperm development, digestive problems such as diarrhoea, constipation, indigestion, bloating, abnormal bleeding and heart ailments in the elderly.

The authors reviewed three recent studies showing that elderly antidepressant users are more likely to die than non-users, even after taking other important variables into account. The higher death rates show that the overall effect of these drugs on the body is more harmful than beneficial.

"Serotonin is intimately regulating many different processes in the body, and when you interfere with these things you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it's going to cause some harm," says Andrews.

The study was published in journal Frontiers in Psychology on Tuesday. 

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