Antidepressants may have been a game-changer as short-term solutions for depressive episodes, but we cannot deny some of the questionable side effects they can bring to the body. A lot of people use this medication. There’s no doubt about that, as CDC has claimed 13% (read more) of the American population aged 18 and beyond take this line of the drug. Often, these users continue their use until 60, which can be devastating to the body and psyche in general. Therefore, a question is posed: Are antidepressants harmful, and are their effects on the biological body benign or fatal?
These collective symptoms can cause other disorders, both affecting the mind and body. Some examples include eating disorders, rebound depression, and respiratory distress. This is only considered if antidepressants are used unsparingly and without discretion, however. As we mentioned earlier, these medications are best used for a shorter term, only to control a particularly severe episode and not necessarily to address the condition.
How Antidepressants Affect the Brain
To start, we have to be familiar with the four medications that fall into the category of antidepressants. These are MAOIs, SSRIs, SSNRIs, and TCAs. These are used for many different stages and states of depression and anxiety. For example, SSRIs are the most used, while MAOIs are the last choice in case all other antidepressants fail to address the symptoms.
In our brain, emotions and messages jump from one neuron to another to get processed by our brain. It is the only way to interpret things such as emotions, raw and physical pain, and psychological distress. These messages get carried on throughout the brain via messengers called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters (link: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-neurotransmitter-2795394) can be in the form of dopamine, serotonin, or epinephrine, the usual hormones to be in a state of imbalance. They also cause the crippling symptoms a patient feels in depression, a drastic change in mood or lack thereof.
A bigger picture is painted, therefore. There is neurotransmitter dysregulation; messages are not reaching their destination or reaching all the wrong places that trigger all the wrong responses from the body. How do antidepressants work in this scenario, you ask?
These antidepressants either work to increase the hormones such as dopamine or serotonin in the brain, which in turn curb the extreme mood swings. It can be done by decreasing the body of its resistance to serotonin and/or adding more to the amount of the said neurotransmitter, which is coined as reuptake. SSRI and SNRIs are good examples of antidepressants that work by doing reuptake in the brain’s chemicals and neurotransmitters.
Are Antidepressants Harmful, then?
Just like any other medication, antidepressants have their own horror stories to tell, both by the majority and the minority. The brain is a complex organ, and each brain inside each biological body differs in how they process antidepressants. In other words, these medications can alleviate your mood swings or neuropathic pain, but at the end of the day, it is almost impossible to guarantee a side-effect-free experience no matter the brand, chemical composition, or assurance from the doctor.
These side-effects can differ from potentially debilitating to mildly annoying. One of these side-effects falling almost in the middle is antidepressants weight gain caused by the drug itself. Just how much would a few pounds hurt a patient struggling with depression? According to experts, the effects would differ from each circumstance, but often, it can lead to rebound depression or even worsen its state.
Weight gain while undergoing severe depression can imply many different things for the patient. Most of them react negatively and take the weight gain as some sort of failure in their drug therapy. These patients are not well-informed about the potential side-effects, and therefore it can eventually lead them deeper into the condition, or worse, move on to more drastic decisions, such as suicide. The risk of such triples if the depressive episodes root from bullying due to weight issues.
As someone taking antidepressants, you should be aware of such side effects and have a strong support system whilst taking this drug therapy. Other than weight gain, it can also cause a severe decrease in libido, addiction, and emotional apathy.
It can also wreak havoc on someone’s blood sugar. Thus, those with Diabetes Mellitus should be extra careful and consult their doctor before deciding to pursue these medications. The explanation comes from the increased weight gain, which leaves those with diabetes a hard time controlling their blood sugar. And even if they manage it well, TCAs still cause hyperglycemia despite there being a change in the diet or not.
What If You Grew Resistant to The Medications?
According to studies, almost 50% of the users of antidepressants experience a decrease in the quality of effect the drugs bring. This phenomenon is coined as tachyphylaxis, and it happens often when someone has been using these medications for a very long time, in increasingly large doses.
Another cause can be vices, such as alcohol and smoking. The former is very well-known to decrease the quality of many medications, from simple analgesics to crucial medications like prescriptions and maintenance. This, too, can affect how antidepressants get metabolized in the liver and, therefore, should be stopped long before undergoing drug therapy.
These are some reasons why doctors refuse to put someone on antidepressants for a long time. Other than that, suddenly ceasing this medication can cause a withdrawal, so careful consideration and a slow taper should be done before taking away the drug in someone’s system.