We’re always told that drug prescribing is all about a careful balance between risk and benefit. People suffering from severe depression do need help, and occasionally a prescribed antidepressant can be helpful.
But new research reveals that doctors need to think twice before prescribing antidepressants, and patients should think three times before taking them.
Antidepressants are a far more deadly family of drugs than even their critics realized, research from Canberra Hospital in Australia shows.
The tricyclic antidepressants, for example, have killed 2,598 people in England, Scotland and Wales between 1993 and 1999. The most lethal drug has been desipramine; although it was responsible for just nine deaths, only 45,000 prescriptions were ever written, which works out at a rate of 200 fatalities for every million prescriptions.
The statistics make for sobering, and, in some cases, shocking reading. The family doctor writes the vast majority of prescriptions for antidepressants, and these findings may stay even his hand.
Research in the past has discovered that antidepressants are also poor substitutes for greater human contact, counselling and self-help therapies.
Perhaps in the light of these new findings, these more humane, and less dangerous, approaches to the epidemic of depression will now be given their rightful place. (Source: British Medical Journal, 2002; 325: 1332-3).