More than a fourth of the people on antidepressants not depressed

A recent study just published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, reports that over ¼ of the population taking antidepressants are taking them for no reason. CBS news did a story on this study under the headline Doctors Giving Antidepressants to People Who Aren’t Depressed: Bad Idea?

The study, conducted at the University of Manitoba, showed that 26.3 percent of people who had taken an antidepressant in the past year did not meet the diagnostic criteria for depression. And that suggests that millions of people are needlessly being exposed to side effects, including headaches, weight gain, and sexual problems, according to one of the study’s authors.

I don’t think anybody should be surprised that people are getting antidepressant drugs that don’t need them. For instance, the following snippet of information was lifted from a Wikipedia page on Antidepressant drugs.

In the United States a 2005 independent report stated that 11% of women and 5% of men in the non-institutionalized population (2002) take antidepressants.

We haven’t even touched the matter of whether or not depression has anything to do with serotonin levels, a subject this study did not even broach.

Researchers in Manitoba are perhaps not in the pay of drug companies the way researchers in the USA seem to be. Perhaps, for this reason, they are not beyond offering a bit of sage advice, now and then, such as the following.

“We cannot be sure that the risks and side effects of antidepressants are worth the benefit of taking them for people who do not meet criteria for major depression,” said Jina Pagura, a medical student at the university, Reuters reported. “These individuals are likely approaching their physicians with concerns that may be related to depression, and could include symptoms like trouble sleeping, poor mood, difficulties in relationships, etc. Although an antidepressant might help with these issues, the problems may also go away on their own with time, or might be more amenable to counseling or psychotherapy

Much question remains as to whether antidepressants actually “help” even those people labeled “clinically depressed”. Given “headaches, weight gain, and sexual problems”, one has to wonder if is it not possible that these drugs are actually more harmful than they are beneficial.