A Story About NMDA Receptor Subunits, and Why SSRIs Impair Cognitive Capacity

The impact of long-term SSRIs on memory-related nerve cell receptors does have functional consequences. Research shows that SSRIs impair the acquisition of fear memories. (Perhaps a positive outcome.) But unlearning fear memories involves new learning as well, and according to a study by LeDoux and colleagues, long term exposure to SSRIs makes it harder to unlearn fear memories.
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Screening Pilots Didn’t Work, and Other Thoughts on the Germanwings Crash

Most pilots who've used planes to commit suicide had actually been screened for mental health issues, reports the New York Times. Plus a selection of other commentaries that continue to emerge about the Germanwings plane crash... More →

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Pfizer Accused of Knowing Zoloft Antidepressant Caused Birth Defects

"Pfizer Inc. researchers concluded last year that pregnant women taking Zoloft risked having babies with heart defects, according to evidence made public by a lawyer at the first trial of more than 1,000 lawsuits over the drug," reported Bloomberg. More →

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More Evidence Antidepressants Might Induce Sexual Dysfunction Even After Stopping Them

A retrospective study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry identified 183 possible cases of people who suffered sexual dysfunction that endured even after stopping taking SSRI antidepressants. Of these, the Israeli researchers identified "23 high-probability cases" of "Post-SSRI Sexual Dysfunction" (PSSD). More →

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Largest Survey of Antidepressants Finds High Rates of Adverse Emotional and Interpersonal Effects

I thought I would make a small contribution to the discussion about how coverage of the recent airline tragedy focuses so much on the supposed ‘mental illness’ of the pilot and not so much on the possible role of antidepressants. Of course we will never know the answer to these questions but it is important, I think, to combat the simplistic nonsense wheeled out after most such tragedies, the nonsense that says the person had an illness that made them do awful things. So, just to confirm what many recipients of antidepressants, clinicians and researchers have been saying for a long time, here are some findings from our recent New Zealand survey of over 1,800 people taking anti-depressants, which we think is the largest survey to date.
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Depression — or Antidepressants — More Linked to Cause of Crash?

In Forbes, David Kroll asks whether antidepressants are more dangerous for commercial pilots to have than depression. And in Mail Online, Peter Hitchens similarly argues that the public discussion about the Germanwings crash has to start distinguishing between the questions of whether depressed people should be flying commercial planes and whether people taking antidepressants should be. More →

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Pilots Crashing on Antidepressants:
A (Not So) Brief History

With the current focus on the possible contribution of psychoactive drugs to the crash of GermanWings flight A320 on Tuesday, March 24, it is useful to identify potential links between the effect of the antidepressants and the events.  In all 47 cases listed on SSRIstories, the pilots were taking antidepressant medications, mostly SSRIs, often in combination with other medications and sometimes with alcohol.
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Winging it: Antidepressants and Plane Crashes

The crash last week of the Germanwings plane has shocked many. In view of the apparent mental health record of the co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, questions have been asked about the screening policies of airlines. The focus has generally been on the conditions pilots may have or the arguments they might be having with partners or other situational factors that might make them unstable. Even when the issue of the medication a pilot may be taking is raised, it is in the context of policies that permit pilots to continue on drugs like antidepressants to ensure any underlying conditions are effectively treated. But fewer treatments in medicine are effective in this sense than people might think and even when effective they come with effects that need to be balanced against the likely effects of the underlying condition.
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Germanwings Pilot Reportedly Had Antidepressants — Many Banned By US FAA

Germany's Die Welt has reported that the German pilot who apparently deliberately crashed a commercial passenger plane had antidepressant drugs in his home, according to CNN. The US Federal Aviation Administration has banned US pilots from taking many SSRI antidepressants. More →

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Many People Taking Antidepressants Don’t Have Any Mental Disorders

The majority of people taking antidepressant medications have never had major depressive disorder, and 38% have never met criteria for having any mental disorder, according to a study in Baltimore published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. More →

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Antipsychotic Use in Nursing Homes Causing Many Adverse Effects in Elderly

The extensive off-label use of antipsychotic medications in nursing homes is causing many adverse effects and providing limited benefits, according to a review of the literature in Health Policy. More →

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Some Common Psychiatric Medications Associated With Pneumonia

Pneumonia cases in the elderly are strongly associated with use of anticholinergic medications, according to research in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Some anticholinergics are used for treating psychiatric conditions, including benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants. More →

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Antidepressant Drugs & Suicide Rates

In 2010, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica published a study by Göran Isacsson et al.  The paper was titled Antidepressant medication prevents suicide in depression. It’s a complicated article, with some tenuous logic, but, in any event, it’s all moot, because the article was retracted by the authors and by Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica about sixteen months after publication.  The retraction had been requested by the authors because of “… unintentional errors in the analysis of the data …”
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Antidepressants Actually Reduce Serotonin Levels

Common scientific beliefs about serotonin levels in depression and how antidepressants act on the brain appear to be completely backwards, according to a paper from Canadian and American researchers in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. More →

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Stopping SSRI Antidepressants Can Cause Long, Intense Withdrawal Problems

In the first systematic review of withdrawal problems that patients experience when trying to get off SSRI antidepressant medications, a team of American and Italian researchers found that withdrawing from SSRIs was in many ways comparable to trying to quit addictive benzodiazepine sedatives and barbiturates. Publishing in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, they also found that withdrawal symptoms can last months or even years, and entirely new, persistent psychiatric disorders can emerge from discontinuing SSRIs. More →

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Why are 25% of Working-age Canadian Women Taking Antidepressants?

In Common Ground, pharmaceutical drug policy researcher Alan Cassels explores how and why it came to be that 25% of working-age women in Canada are taking an antidepressant medication. More →

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Disability and Mood Disorders in the Age of Prozac

When I was researching Anatomy of an Epidemic and sought to track the number of people receiving a disability payment between 1987 and 2007 due to “mental illness,” I was frustrated by the lack of diagnostic clarity in the data. The Social Security Administration would list, in its annual reports on the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs, the number of people receiving payment for “mental disorders,” which in turn was broken down into just two subcategories: “retardation,” and “other mental disorders.” Unfortunately, the “other mental disorders,” which was the category for those with psychiatric disorders, was not broken down into its diagnostic parts.
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Certain Antidepressants, Sleep Aids Associated with Higher Dementia Risk

Greater cumulative doses of antihistamines, tricyclic antidepressants and other drugs that are anticholinergic or block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine are associated with significant increases in dementia and Alzheimer's, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine. More →

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Evidence Lacking for Antidepressant Safety in Nursing Mothers

Sertraline and paroxetine may be somewhat safer for the infants of nursing mothers than other SSRI antidepressants, but generally there is far too little information to go on, reported two Italian medical researchers in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. More →

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Antidepressants Seem to Increase Heart Disease in the Elderly

Depressed elderly people are more likely to suffer heart disease not because of their depression, but apparently due to antidepressant medications, according to a study published in Psychological Medicine. More →

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Semen Abnormalities Associated with SSRI Antidepressants

"Several studies have found altered semen parameters after exposure to SSRI antidepressants," stated the French non-profit medical continuing education organization Prescrire in a special report. "Although the role of SSRIs is uncertain, it is justified to take into account the observed effects on sperm quality and to inform exposed patients." More →

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Depression: It’s Not Your Serotonin

What if I told you that, in 6 decades of research, the serotonin (or norepinephrine, or dopamine) theory of depression and anxiety – the claim that “Depression is a serious medical condition that may be due to a chemical imbalance, and Zoloft works to correct this imbalance” – has not achieved scientific credibility? You’d want some supporting arguments for this shocking claim. So, here you go:
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New Form of Mice Experiment Reveals Antidepressant’s Dangers Earlier

Scientists from the University of Utah say they have discovered a new way of doing mice experiments that more sensitively and quickly reveals negative side effects from drugs being tested. In their proof-of-concept, their experiment much more pronouncedly and rapidly revealed the negative effects of the antidepressant Paxil (paroxetine) on pregnant mothers and offspring, even at relatively low doses. More →

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The Truth About Antidepressant Research: An Invitation to Dialogue

The Finnish Psychological Association held a meeting in Helsinki on 1 Sept 2014 titled “Mental Health and Medicalization.” I spoke at the meeting and four days later I sent a letter to another speaker, psychiatrist Erkki Isometsä. Professor Isometsä replied: “I will respond to it in detail within a few days…” As “Open Dialogue” is essential in science, I have published my letter to Isometsä here as well as on my own website, although I didn’t succeed in starting a dialogue.
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Enough is Enough Series: An Hallucinogen for Depression? Psychiatry is Testing Ketamine (‘Special K’) for Depression

The article “Special K, a Hallucinogen, Raises Hopes and Concerns as a Treatment for Depression,” by Andrew Pollack in the New York Times, December 9, 2014, tells how far afield my field, psychiatry, has really gone – that it is even a consideration to use an hallucinogen for the treatment of depression.
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