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Long-Term Antidepressants Linked to Addiction, Withdrawal Symptoms: NYT Report

According to a recent report in the New York Times, a growing number of Americans are taking antidepressants, only to discover that they cannot easily quit due to addictive properties and withdrawal symptoms. 

Nearly 25 million Americans have been taking antidepressants for at least two years, according to the report published earlier this month, which represents a 60% increase since 2010. In addition, 15.5 million people in the U.S. have taken antidepressants for at least five years, which is a three-fold increase since 2000, and is twice as many as in 2010.

The report comes just days after a study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology on April 5, in which Russian researchers indicate that animal studies have linked the medications to antidepressant discontinuation syndrome (ADS).

“ADS is a common problem in patients following the interruption, dose reduction, or discontinuation of antidepressant drugs,” the researchers reported. “Clinically, ADS resembles a classical drug withdrawal syndrome, albeit differing from it because antidenressants generally do not induce addiction.”

The study called for experimental animal models of the disorder, noting that the currently available preclinical models are mainly rodent based. The study looks at basic mechanisms linked to antidepressant withdrawal and emphasizes “how animal models may help generate important translational insights into human ADS condition, its prevention and therapy.”

The Times reports that while most people are able to stop using drugs like Prozac, Cymbalta and others without any problem, a growing number of Americans are finding it difficult or impossible to quit due to antidepressant withdrawal problems. They indicate that the drug manufacturers never warned about the potential antidepressant addiction risks.

British health experts began an investigation into drug dependency in January, according to the NY Times report, and information from both the U.K. and New Zealand have warned about potentially addictive qualities linked to antidepressants since 2016.

The study and Times report comes about two months after researchers published a study in The Lancet which examined the effectiveness of antidepressants, noting that some were far more effective than others.

Major depressive disorder is one of the most common psychiatric disorders among adults worldwide. While antidepressants are more commonly used than psychological interventions, only about one-third of newly diagnosed people will seek any type of treatment.

Even when treatment is sought, about one-third of people will not respond to treatment. More so, treatment can take 4 to 8 weeks to become effective.

Depression affects approximately 350 million people worldwide and the instance of depression increased 20% from 2005 to 2015.

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