Clinical Trials Show Antidepressants “Not Beneficial in the Long Term”

Clinical trials also consistently fail to measure and report long-term harmful effects.

Peter Simons
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It is increasingly common for people to take antidepressant drugs long-term. Recently, a new study aimed to discover whether long-term use was supported by the data from clinical trials of the drugs. The researchers, led by Peter C. Gøtzsche, found that the drugs were not effective for long-term use. According to the researchers, every study they assessed “concluded that the drugs were not beneficial in the long term.

Additionally, the researchers wanted to determine the prevalence of harmful effects after using antidepressants long-term. Unfortunately, what they discovered was that every clinical trial either didn’t report on harm or chose very selective outcome measures which likely concealed the true extent of harmful effects.

Because of this, the researchers conclude that “The randomized trials currently available cannot be used to investigate persistent harms of antidepressants.

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It is possible to extrapolate long-term harms from the known short-term harms of antidepressants. The researchers write that “we do know that short term use of antidepressants can cause irritability, anxiety and panic, emotional flattening, dyskinesias, sexual impairment, and also suicidality and aggression.” Additionally, serious withdrawal effects are increasingly well-documented, can last for months or years, and can also be mistaken for a return of depressive symptoms.

The researchers conducted a systematic review of every long-term randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial of antidepressants (with outcomes until at least six months). Unsurprisingly, there were very few. They only found 12 such studies. Not all of the studies focused on depression, either. Some studies included patients with PTSD, OCD, panic disorder, binge eating disorder, and even adolescents who refused to go to school.

Although there have been thousands of clinical trials of antidepressants, only these 12 studies reported long-term outcomes. There were other problems with the studies they examined, they explain:

“Outcome reporting was less thorough during follow-up than for the intervention period, and only two trials maintained the blind during follow-up.”

This means that the studies failed to measure their outcomes at follow-up accurately. It also means that in 10 of the 12 trials, participants knew whether they received antidepressants or placebo during follow up assessments, which is likely to have influenced the results collected.

The researchers write that since the existing randomized, controlled trials are not useful for analyzing long-term benefits and risks of antidepressant use, other types of studies provide the only information about this topic.

For instance, an observational study of long-term outcomes tracked those who use antidepressants over time and correlated use with outcomes. The researchers in that study found that those who took antidepressants had worse outcomes after nine years than those who did not receive the drug—even when controlling for the severity of depressive symptoms.

 

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Danborg, P. B., Valdersdorf, M., & Gøtzsche, P. C. (2019). Long-term harms from previous use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors: A systematic review. International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, 30, 59-71. DOI: 10.3233/JRS-180046 (Link)

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Peter Simons
MIA Research News Team: Peter Simons comes from a background in the humanities where he studied English, philosophy, and art. Now working on his PhD in Counseling Psychology, his recent research has focused on conflicts of interest in the psychopharmaceutical research literature, the use of antipsychotic medications in the treatment of depression, and the general philosophical and sociopolitical implications of psychiatric taxonomy in diagnosis and treatment.

6 COMMENTS

    • “I think its always been presumed that drugs taken to make people feel happier are likely to make them feel more unhappy in the long run. It’s only ‘recently’ that people have attempted to argue against this.”

      It is true that happy pills make people more unhappy long term. They aren’t dealing with their affairs, they aren’t living in their skin.

      But what is wrong is just the idea of using chemical mood alterants in the first place.

  1. “The researchers write that ‘we do know that short term use of antidepressants can cause irritability, anxiety and panic, emotional flattening, dyskinesias, sexual impairment, and also suicidality and aggression.’ Additionally, serious withdrawal effects are increasingly well-documented, can last for months or years, and can also be mistaken for a return of depressive symptoms.”

    Don’t forget about the million plus American children, and millions and millions of adults, who’ve had the adverse and withdrawal effects of the antidepressants misdiagnosed as “bipolar.”

    https://www.alternet.org/2010/04/are_prozac_and_other_psychiatric_drugs_causing_the_astonishing_rise_of_mental_illness_in_america/

    Despite this disclaimer being in all DSMs, but the DSM5.

    “Note: Manic-like episodes that are clearly caused by somatic antidepressant treatment (e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy) should not count toward a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder.”

    It’s a shame the psychiatric industry takes accurate information, that would be beneficial for their clients, out of their DSMs, after their massive in societal scope malpractice is pointed out. Where are the lawyers?

    And all these “bipolar” misdiagnosed people then get put on the antipsychotics / neuroleptics. A drug class which can create the negative symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome. As well as creating the positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via anticholinergic toxidrome.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroleptic-induced_deficit_syndrome

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxidrome

    These two medically known psychiatric drug induced syndrome are also, conveniently for the psychiatrists, missing from the psychiatrists’ DSM “bible.” But how convenient for the psychiatrists that their “gold standard schizophrenia treatments” create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia.”

    But, of course, this means that both “bipolar” and “schizophrenia” are iatrogenic illnesses, created with the psychiatric drugs. Not illnesses with a “genetic” etiology, as most the “mental health professionals” fraudulently proclaim, and have wasted billions of taxpayer dollars unsuccessfully trying to prove.

  2. There used to be a saying “before diagnosing yourself with depression, make sure you’re not surrounded by assholes”. It seems the new motto is: if you can’t cope with the assholes, something is wrong with you. It’s not other people’s abusive behavior that’s the problem, it’s your inability to cope quietly.

    We’d have been better off sticking with Jefferson Airplane’s red and blue pills… at least those provided a good time.