How safe are anti-depressants? Most anti-depressant users, nearly 90%, experience side-effects. The side-effects vary in severity depending on the medication. There is no medication singled out as the safest anti-depressant. Instead, side effects are measured and compared to the medication's effectiveness.
The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires anti-depressants carry warnings stating the possibility children and adolescents may have increased suicidal thinking with anti-depressant use. No suicides, however, have been linked to anti-depressants. Prozac has been tested and found to be safe, according to the FDA, for children and adolescents.
Pregnant and Nursing Women
The University of Pittsburgh studied the effects of selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRI's) on nursing mothers, over a period of 20 years, and found the amount of anti-depressant in breast milk too small for detection. Zoloft and Paxil were found the safest for nursing women. Harvard Medical School studied children exposed to Prozac and other anti-depressants while in utero and found no long term effects on the children. Prozac is considered the safest anti-depressant for pregnant women.
Wellbutrin (Bupropion), in high doses, has caused seizures in a small number of users. Effexor (venlafaxine) users may experience vomiting and high blood pressure. Cymbalta (duloxetine) has lead to liver failure and death in a few rare cases. Zoloft (sertraline) may give users diarrhea. All anti-depressants have side effects. Talk with your doctor to become educated about these possible side effects.
As more anti-depressants become available, the possibility of a lethal combination rises. Co-morbid conditions where patients experience depression and anxiety, for instance, may mean the mixture of two anti-depressants. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the safety of specific mixes.
Anti-depressants have been used for more than 20 years. Prozac was introduced to the public in the early 1980's. Thorough studies and research have yet to show any evidence which suggests anti-depressants are unsafe. Prozac has been studied more than other SSRI's and seems to rank at the top of the safety echelon. Becoming an informed consumer, however, about anti-depressants will always be a necessary part of a patient's recovery.