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“Our finding that over a third of respondents reported suicidality ‘as a result of taking the antidepressants’ suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated the problem,” says lead researcher John Read from Liverpool University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society.
In a media release on the 1829-participant study, reported this month in the journal Psychiatry Research (18 February online), Professor Read says over half of people aged 18 to 25 in the study reported suicidal feelings.
In the total sample there were large percentages of people suffering from sexual difficulties (62 per cent) and feeling emotionally numb (60 per cent).
Other effects included: feeling not like myself, 52 per cent; reduction in positive feelings, 42 per cent; caring less about others, 39 per cent; and withdrawal effects, 55 per cent.
Eight-two per cent reported the drugs helped alleviate their depression. Each person completed an online questionnaire on 20 adverse effects. The study was carried out in New Zealand and all participants had been on antidepressants in the last five years.
The survey factored in people’s levels of depression and asked them to report on how they had felt while taking the medication.
More than half had taken the drug for more than three years.
Professor Read says the findings have led to growing concerns about the scale of the problem of over-prescription of these drugs.
“The medicalisation of sadness and distress has reached bizarre levels. One in 10 people in some countries are now prescribed antidepressants each year.”
The New Zealand co-authors of the research were senior lecturers Claire Cartwright and Kerry Gibson, of the school of psychology, University of Auckland.
Dr Gibson is quoted today in a Fairfax NZ News article saying that, in New Zealand, one in nine adults and one in six women are prescribed antidepressants every year.
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