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Study: Patients Are Taking Antidepressants without a Diagnosis

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Winnipeg, CanadaWhen it comes to dealing with SSRI side effects, it is one thing to take an antidepressant to treat depression, knowing that you could face a risk of SSRI birth defects. It is an entirely different matter, however, to expose yourself to a risk of SSRI side effects when you do not have depression. A recently published study found that more than 25 percent of people in the US who take antidepressants have not been diagnosed with the conditions the drugs are approved to treat.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Manitoba in Canada and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry and cited by Reuters (02/04/11). Researchers examined data from the Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiologic surveys that included information of more than 20,000 American adults who were interviewed between 2001 and 2003.

According to researchers, approximately 10 percent of the people interviewed said they took antidepressants in the previous year. Twenty-five percent of those people were never diagnosed with the conditions that antidepressants usually treat, including major depression and anxiety disorder.

Researchers noted that patients could see their doctors with problems such as difficulty sleeping and mood problems, which are related to depression but could resolve on their own or may not require antidepressant therapy. The study suggests that antidepressant use in people who do not have psychiatric diagnoses is common in the US. Researchers further suggested that patients who took antidepressants without a diagnosis were more likely to have received that prescription from a family physician or other doctor than from a psychiatrist.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressant that includes Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. They are frequently used to treat depression, mood disorders and/or anxiety disorders. The problem with being given the drugs without a diagnosis is that patients are being exposed to potentially serious side effects without any proven benefits.

Some studies suggest that SSRIs are linked to side effects such as birth defects when babies are exposed to the antidepressants prior to birth. The results of the University of Manitoba study suggest—or at least raise the possibility—that some pregnant women who take SSRIs may be doing so without a diagnosis of depression or anxiety disorders—meaning that their infants could be put at risk of birth defects, including congenital heart defects, without the mother receiving benefit from the antidepressant.

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