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Should You Dump Your Antidepressants?

February 28, 2008, 4:32 PM by Jaine Andrews

Should You Dump Your Antidepressants?
Healthcare professionals write 118 million prescriptions every year in this country for a class of drugs known as antidepressants. But a study released earlier this week, has many of those who pop the pills wondering whether they might do just as well with therapy or a good workout. 

New research has some people questioning whether antidepressants are as effective as advertised. The groundbreaking British study found that the drugs only helped those suffering severe depression and did nothing to help those with mild depression. That has some people wondering whether they should dump their drugs. 

Antidepressants--American adults pop more of these pills than any other kind. Yet new research seems to indicate that many of those might do just as well without them. 

Dr. Rajesh Singh, a psychiatrist with Sanford Clinic Behavioral Health says, "The duration of the studies was about to 6 to 8 weeks on an average. And, yes, in 6 to 8 weeks in treating a depressed patient there was not a whole lot of difference." 

But Singh says that doesn't mean patients should toss out that bottle of Prozac or Paxil. 

Singh says, "In clinical practice we don't treat people for 6 to 8 weeks. It's a chronic condition, these people tend to stay on antidepressants for a fairly long period of time and this study does not address that fundamental question." 

Other studies, he insists, dispute this most recent research. 

Singh says, "The goal of an antidepressant is to decrease the incidence, or the frequency of relapses, and there are a lot of studies which have shown that antidepressants do just that." 

And antidepressants are used to treat more than depression. The drugs are often prescribed for everything from anxiety and compulsive disorders to hot flashes. 

Singh says, "If they feel that the medicines are helping them, then I would recommend that they stay on it." 

Besides, he adds, antidepressants are typically not a drug you should quit cold turkey.

Singh says, "It's always a good idea to talk to your physician and go off your antidepressants slowly. And a lot of people and I usually tell my patients this also, is you don't realize what an antidepressant is doing for you until you quit taking the medicine.” 

For their part, the makers of popular antidepressants say the study didn't go far enough and only looked at a small subset of the data available.

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