Antidepressant Caused Six-fold Artery Plaque Build-up in Monkeys


The commonly used antidepressant sertraline hydrochloride (Zoloft) caused up to six-fold increases in build-up of atherosclerosis plaque in the coronary arteries of monkeys, according to a study in Psychosomatic Medicine.

“The medical community has known for years that depression is closely associated with heart disease, but we didn’t know if treating it would reduce the heart disease risk,” said the lead author about the reasons for the study in a press release from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The researchers gave 42 middle-aged female monkeys a Western-like diet containing fat and cholesterol for 18 months, and noted any depressive behavior. The animals were then randomly assigned to receive either a daily dose of the SSRI Zoloft or a placebo for another 18 months.

“The monkeys that received the SSRI developed three times the amount of atherosclerosis in their coronary arteries as monkeys given the placebo,” stated the press release. “In the depressed animals, the amount was even higher — almost six times greater in the SSRI-treated animals than in those given the placebo.”

“Our findings suggest that long-term treatment with this drug promotes coronary artery atherosclerosis in non-human primates,” the lead author said in the press release. “This may be clinically significant for people because almost a quarter of middle-aged women in the United States take antidepressants, the most prescribed of which are SSRIs.”

Shively, Carol A., Thomas C. Register, Susan E. Appt, and Thomas B. Clarkson. “Effects of Long-Term Sertraline Treatment and Depression on Coronary Artery Atherosclerosis in Premenopausal Female Primates:” Psychosomatic Medicine 77, no. 3 (April 2015): 267–78. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000163. (Abstract)

Common antidepressant increased coronary atherosclerosis in animal model (Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center press release on ScienceDaily, April 6, 2015)


  1. Yeah, it certainly is frightening than so many Americans take psych drugs. And it means that our warnings to the public about the dangers of psych drugs run up against a lot of resistance from people who don’t want to face what they are doing to themselves.

    There was a very relevant article in the New York Times a few weeks ago called “Medicating Women’s Feelings,” by a feminist psychiatrist, where she encourages women to deal with the causes of their anxiety and unhappiness, instead of numbing themselves out. I think our culture devalues emotion to start with and then psychiatry promotes that.

    Like many other social institutions, psychiatry both mirrors the culture it arises from and then changes it.

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    • For women it’s a double whammy – you’re seen as emotional and hysterical even when you’re not and in the same time you’re supposed to conform to the male dominated world and only have a chance for success if you behave like the most testosterone-loaded macho. I do understand why most women are wary of showing their feelings and struggle with trying to suppress their normal emotionality.

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  2. Believe this period of the American Science and Medical communities will some day be referred to as a period of dark science anti woman, child and poverty. They are the Ginny Pigs for the “research” and as a society we the people of America are living in a drug experiment. The real issue is not if we enter a period of enlightenment in regards to mental health but when, and what do we do with the victims of this period and how do we assist both practitioners and patients in moving past the horrific practices and the results of these experiments. Now this may sound a little radical especially since I am including the practitioners in the recovery but we need to acknowledge that they too have bought the same bill of goods and I do believe that from their position they are practicing good medicine based on solid science. At least they started out that way.

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  3. I hope they look into other SSRIs. Just as the amount of sexual dysfunction varies, it is likely the plaque-causing effects would vary as well. For over 18 years, I’ve been living with HIV, EBV, XMRV, plus taking a palmful of meds to keep the first one in check, plus dealing with the side-effects of the meds, including Prozac for most of that time. I tried other SSRIs (including Zoloft), but they caused me to be nearly unable to achieve sexual completion, while Prozac does not interfere with this at all. Hopefully this means that Prozac is different enough not to cause cardiac issues. Medical cannabis plus Prozac has enabled me to ditch opiate pain meds for all but the worst pain (my hips were replaced 12 years ago, due to a degenerative disorder), but I *really* do not need any more medical problems!

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