In the 1950s scientists discovered the effects of MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) elevated moods in depressed patients. In the late 1950s and early 1960s antidepressant drug therapy was further developed and medications were helping patients who had long suffered from depression. However, there were serious adverse side effects at high doses of these drugs, causing heart problems, seizures, and death. Scientists developed a second-generation antidepressant in the 1970s, which had different side effects. These are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. In 1988, Prozac (fluoxetine) was introduced in the U.S. as the first SSRI. Although SSRIs did not cause as many cardiac events or seizures, they do come with several side effects.
SSRIs are medications available only by prescription. They are also prescribed for children and adolescents, as well.
Some commonly prescribed SSRIs include: Prozac (fluoxetine), Celexa (citalopram), Luvox (fluvoxamine), Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine) and Lexapro (escitalopram).
SSRIs work by blocking a receptor in the brain that absorbs the chemical serotonin. Serotonin is known to influence mood, but the exact way SSRIs improve depression is not clear.
SSRIs have the ability to mildly influence mood, outlook and behavior. Although often positive, these same benefits can also be a cause for concern for many people. Some people worry that SSRIs will change them into someone else. All medications have side effects and depression treatment is no exception. In most cases, SSRIs are well tolerated, but antidepressant drugs affect each person differently.
It is true that taking an SSRI changes the chemistry inside your brain. This causes subtle changes in the way you feel, act and behave.
SSRIs are approved by the FDA for anxiety and/or depression, severe enough to interfere with normal activities of daily life.
It is important to know that SSRIs can cause dangerously high blood pressure when taken with MAO inhibitors. Demerol, a very commonly used pain medication in hospitals, has also been reported to cause dangerously high blood pressure when used with an SSRI. The antibiotic Zyvox (linezolid) acts similarly to an MAO inhibitor, and also should not be taken with SSRIs.
The most troubling adverse effects of SSRIs are sexual dysfunction, weightgain and sleep disturbance, seen in long-term SSRI therapy.
Some people report a lack of emotion while taking SSRIs. However, depression causes many people to feel “shut down”, void of emotion and for the first time “feel” emotions when they are treated with SSRIs. Different SSRIs may work for some people, while other SSRIs will be more beneficial to others.
SSRIs affect libido and sexual experience in many people. Men often experience delayed ejaculation. Research has shown that between 20-45 percent of people will experience decline in sexual function. SSRIs can increase sex drive by reducing depression but they can cause impotence and delayed ejaculation or eliminate orgasms in women.
Wellbutrin is a non-SSRI depression medication that does not diminish sex drive. It can be taken with an SSRI as a way to lower the SSRI dose. This often helps people resume their normal sex lives.
Depression and anxiety generally have a negative effect on people’s sex lives. Some patients have reported that once the depression is treated, their desire for sex returns.
Many SSRIs have been found to be associated with birth defects in children of pregnant mothers taking these drugs. The birth defects vary depending on the specific SSRI taken but they include:
- persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (PPHN)
- congenital heart defects
- neural tube defects (spina bifida)
- infant omphacele
- club foot
- anal atresia
- lung defects
SSRIs can be life changing for patients suffering from depression, anxiety, as well as other mental health disorders. However, the public is entitled to an honest, clear understanding of the possible side effects they may face. It can be very difficult to discontinue use of these SSRIs without feeling very sickly, known as serotonin symptom withdrawal. The pharmaceutical companies should have labels on the bottles clearly warning of all the possible side effects, as well as healthcare providers should sit down and explain all the pros and cons. It may be too late for some patients who took these SSRIs during pregnancy.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured after taking an SSRI, contact Gacovino, Lake & Associates to discuss your legal options with an experienced and qualified dangerous drug lawyer today.