SSRI Antidepressants May Do More Harm Than Good Against Autism: Study

The findings of a new study suggest that physicians may not be helping by prescribing SSRI antidepressants off-label to treat autism, and may actually be harming patients instead. 

An analysis of the effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for autism in adults and children were published this week in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Researchers say that there is little evidence that giving the medications to autistic patients has any effect. In fact, the patients may be being exposed to the side effects of SSRI antidepressants despite the lack of measurable benefit.

Doctors frequently prescribe SSRIs to autistic children to help with behavioral problems, and to adults for anxiety and depression. Some estimates suggest up to 40 percent of autistic children are being dosed with antidepressants to control their behavior. But last year, a study found that the SSRI Celexa was no more effective than a placebo in affecting autistic behavioral symptoms.

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The latest U.S. government funded meta-analysis looked at 271 participants in a number of randomized controlled trials. Adults and children were given either Prozac, Luvox, Celexa or fenfluramine; which was an SSRI used in weight loss products such as Fen-Phen and Pondimin, both of which have been removed from the U.S. market due to health risks. Researchers again found that SSRIs appeared to have no effect on the behavior of children with autism, and very little effect on adults with autism combating depression and anxiety.

“There is no evidence of the effect of SSRIs in children and emerging evidence of harm,” researchers warned in their conclusion.

SSRIs are a relatively new class of antidepressants, which help reduce symptoms of depression by preventing certain nerve cells in the brain from re-absorbing the chemical serotonin. These drugs are commonly used by millions of Americans with depression.

Although the drugs have been found to cause fewer side effects than older anti-depressants, research has shown that users of the drugs could also face an increased risk of suicides, and use during pregnancy has been linked to a risk of birth defects from SSRI antidepressants.

1 Comments

  • MeiJuly 26, 2012 at 1:46 am

    This is what happened with me, I was in my early 20 s and had BAD panic atktacs. They would come over and over I was clueless on what was going on and I was depressed also naturally. I took medication (zoloft) then they switched me to (lexapro) Which seemed to work. This is bad what I did but a year later I was feeling normal And I weened myself off. I started working out daily and when I felt[Show More]This is what happened with me, I was in my early 20 s and had BAD panic atktacs. They would come over and over I was clueless on what was going on and I was depressed also naturally. I took medication (zoloft) then they switched me to (lexapro) Which seemed to work. This is bad what I did but a year later I was feeling normal And I weened myself off. I started working out daily and when I felt the urge of panic I would tell myself it was ok stop freaking out over nothing. Its still hard to deal with to this day but I learned to deal with it and control my mind (sometimes!) Find someone you can talk to when you feel one coming on. My Father always helped me and now I have my husband that brings me back to earth. I don't believe counseling will help just exercise, breath, relax and focus on the good and always remember PANIC ATTACKS WON'T KILL YOU. Thats what I always told myself when I thought I was dieing!!! Its all about mind control.I forgot to add.. I took me about 6 months to recover also. The fear was always in the back of my head. Both answers above me seem right on also. Change your diet is a must when your dealing with it. Its a scary and hard thing. Hang in there it gets better with help.

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