Antidepressants are prescription drugs used to treat depression. Despite the drug name, antidepressants are also used to treat several other conditions. These conditions include anxiety disorders, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, and chronic pain.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are a common type of antidepressant. The first SSRI medication to be released in the U.S. market was Prozac in 1988. Antidepressants have gained massive popularity. As of 2005, antidepressants were the most-prescribed medications in the U.S. population. Today’s market features more than a dozen SSRIs.
What Is an SSRI?
SSRIs work to increase the brain’s levels of serotonin. Serotonin is naturally produced in the body. It is a neurotransmitter associated with regulating mood, learning, and sleep. SSRIs block, or inhibit, the brain from reabsorbing serotonin after it is produced. This increases serotonin levels to higher than normal.
The term “selective” in the name of this class of drugs refers to the fact that the primary neurotransmitter they affect is serotonin. SSRIs are considered to be third-generation antidepressants, as they are modified from the first antidepressants developed. These third-generation antidepressants tend to have fewer side effects compared to older ones.
While there are dozens of antidepressants available to Americans, there are a few brands that face social and legal controversy. Among these antidepressants are Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, and Effexor. Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil are the most commonly-prescribed SSRIs on the market today.
Antidepressant Side Effects
Side effects are extremely common in patients who take antidepressants. These side effects range from minor to severe and life-threatening. Different antidepressants have different chemical compositions. The varying chemical compositions react with each patient’s overall health in unique ways and can appear unpredictable at times.
Side effects from antidepressants may include:
- Dry mouth
- Increased sweating
- Weight gain or loss
- Decreased sexual desire
- Sexual dysfunction
Severe Antidepressant Side Effects
While minor side effects can be common, there are a series of side effects that are rarer and potentially life-threatening. Among the two most dangerous side effects of antidepressants are birth defects, suicide and withdrawal. Unfortunately, since antidepressants are big business for manufacturers, the pharmaceutical industry can react slowly to research and adverse reports that indicate dangerous side effects.
Pregnant women taking antidepressants—particularly SSRIs—can experience birth defects in their children. These birth defects can include defects in the heart, brain, and lungs. Deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate have also been noted.
The FDA uses pregnancy categories to warn doctors and patients of pregnancy risks while using specific antidepressants. Most SSRIs are classified as category C. This means that the category of drugs caused harm to laboratory animals after ingesting large amounts. Pregnancy category C drugs do not have significant evidence of harm to humans. For ethical purposes, testing cannot be conducted on humans.
Prozac is the only SSRI that has received FDA approval for use in children 8 and older. Studies and doctor reports show an alarming increase of suicide in children and young adults. Vulnerability is increased during the initial two months of antidepressant treatment. During this period, the patient’s body is still adjusting to the drug. It is recommended that caregivers and parents closely monitor young adults during the initial treatment phase.
While SSRIs are not considered chemically addictive, many patients suffer withdrawal because they become dependent on them during treatment. During dependency, the patient comes to need the drug to maintain normal mental and physical functioning.
In some cases, patients can develop a condition referred to as SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome. It includes symptoms such as imbalance, flu-like symptoms, sleep and sensory disturbances, and gastrointestinal issues. Patients may also experience anxiety, irritability, and crying spells.
It is believed that many antidepressant manufacturers have failed to warn the public of the full extent of antidepressant side effects. Furthermore, many believe that these companies should face legal repercussions for the harm caused to their consumers.
Many antidepressant users file lawsuits against drug manufacturers to gain compensation for this harm. Financial compensation can help cover medical bills and lost wages due to injury. Additionally, patients can receive compensation for the pain and suffering endured during the entire process. Users who wish to file a claim should meet with an experienced SSRI attorney to discuss their legal options. Call Seeger Weiss LLP today at 1-888-978-4827.