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Taking Antidepressants Long-Term May Increase Your Risk of Death Significantly
There was a silver lining for patients who have heart disease or diabetes.
10% of Americans take an antidepressant today. They’re some of the most commonly prescribed medications. What’s more, the number of antidepressant prescriptions has increased over the years. 25% of American women in their 40s and 50s take one.
Though these pills may help in the short-term, a new study finds they could portend a serious health crisis later on in life, when taken long-term. Seems those who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most popular kind, have a 33% higher mortality rate. They’re also 14% more likely to experience a serious cardiovascular episode, such as a heart attack or stroke.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or chemical signaling agent inside the brain. It gives us a sense of belonging and wellbeing. SSRIs block the absorption of serotonin by neurons. Allowing more of it to stay within a person’s brain chemistry helps sustain a certain level and so improves one’s mood.
Those who took antidepressants long-term had a 33% higher risk of mortality. Getty Images.
One problem is that it isn’t only the brain that uses serotonin. The heart, lungs, liver, and other organs also absorb it. Taking an SSRI blocks serotonin absorption to these organs as well. How that affects health long-term however, has been something of a controversy.
This isn’t an entirely new debate. In 2015 in the journal BMJ, Denmark-based researcher Peter C. Gøtzsche suggested that long-term use of antidepressants could lead to premature death. UK-based researcher Allan H. Young meanwhile, claimed that these medications, which have been rigorously tested, are proven safe and effective. Young added that untreated mood disorders can, in and of themselves, severely impact health and shorten lifespan. Depression is particularly deadly. It increases one’s risk of suicide, heart attack, and stroke substantially.
Now, researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada are weighing in with their own report, published recently in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. This was a meta-analysis of several previous studies which looked for prevailing trends. Researchers wrote that certain antidepressants, “disrupt multiple adaptive processes regulated by evolutionarily ancient biochemicals, potentially increasing mortality.” Serotonin is one such biochemical.
It’s a balancing act as depression itself can have a major impact on health. Getty Images.
Investigators closely analyzed 17 previous studies having to do with antidepressants and mortality. This includes the data of 375,000 individuals from the general population. They also include different classes of antidepressants, such as SSRIs and tricyclics.
A mixed-effects statistical model was used to rule out other factors that contributed to mortality. Researchers selected studies cross-referencing SSRIs with all-mortality, deadly heart attacks, and strokes. One positive find for those who already have heart disease or diabetes, antidepressants didn’t cause them any harm.
That’s because they thin the blood, which is helpful in preventing clots—usually what cause a heart attack or stroke. This is why sometimes, antidepressants are used to fight things like cardiovascular disease. Besides that silver lining, a roughly one-third higher mortality rate over the long-term is disturbing, particularly considering so many people take these drugs.
How and who antidepressants are prescribed to may soon change drastically due to these findings. Getty Images.
Associate professor Paul Andrews led the research team. "We are very concerned by these results,” he said. “They suggest that we shouldn't be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body." Often primary care physicians diagnose mood disorders and prescribe such medications, absent of an evaluation from a psychiatric professional. These results may call that practice into question.
It’s a careful balancing act too, considering a mood disorder comes with its own mortality risks. For some people, antidepressants may currently be their only treatment option. What these results show is that doctors shouldn’t prescribe them cavalierly and patients should ask a lot of questions and make sure they understand everything they need to know. In addition, far more research must be done to understand exactly how antidepressants effect other systems in the body, not just the brain.
Certainly, no one taking such medication should stop doing so suddenly. That can seriously impact one's health. Instead, all patients should take antidepressants exactly as instructed and address any concerns with their doctor.
To learn about SSRIs other concerning side effects, click here:
Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.
- Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
- With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
- The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Howard et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"While this approach has wide implications for heritage management/museum display, its relevance conforms exactly to the ancient Egyptians' fundamental belief that 'to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again'," they wrote in a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56316-y#Fig3" target="_blank">paper</a> published in Nature Scientific Reports. "Given Nesyamun's stated desire to have his voice heard in the afterlife in order to live forever, the fulfilment of his beliefs through the synthesis of his vocal function allows us to make direct contact with ancient Egypt by listening to a sound from a vocal tract that has not been heard for over 3000 years, preserved through mummification and now restored through this new technique."</p>
Connecting modern people with history<p>It's not the first time scientists have "re-created" an ancient human's voice. In 2016, for example, Italian researchers used software to <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hear-recreated-voice-otzi-iceman-180960570/" target="_blank">reconstruct the voice of Ötzi,</a> an iceman who was discovered in 1991 and is thought to have died more than 5,000 years ago. But the "Voices of the Past" project is different, the researchers note, because Nesyamun's mummified corpse is especially well preserved.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was particularly suited, given its age and preservation [of its soft tissues], which is unusual," Howard told <em><a href="https://www.livescience.com/amp/ancient-egypt-mummy-voice-reconstructed.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>.</em></p><p>As to whether Nesyamun's reconstructed voice will ever be able to speak complete sentences, Howard told <em><a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Weird/wireStory/ancient-voice-scientists-recreate-sound-egyptian-mummy-68482015" target="_blank">The Associated Press</a>, </em>that it's "something that is being worked on, so it will be possible one day."</p><p>John Schofield, an archaeologist at the University of York, said that reproducing voices from history can make museum experiences "more multidimensional."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"There is nothing more personal than someone's voice," he told <em>The Associated Press.</em> "So we think that hearing a voice from so long ago will be an unforgettable experience, making heritage places like Karnak, Nesyamun's temple, come alive."</p>
Inequality in wealth, gender, and race grew to unprecedented levels across the world, according to OxFam report.
- A new report by global poverty nonprofit OxFam finds inequality has increased in every country in the world.
- The alarming trend is made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, which strained most systems and governments.
- The gap in wealth, race and gender treatment will increase until governments step in with changes.
People wait in line to receive food at a food bank on April 28, 2020 in Brooklyn.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Credit: Oxfam International
A supernova exploded near Earth about 2.5 million years ago, possibly causing an extinction event.
- Researchers from the University of Munich find evidence of a supernova near Earth.
- A star exploded close to our planet about 2.5 million years ago.
- The scientists deduced this by finding unusual concentrations of isotopes, created by a supernova.
This Manganese crust started to form about 20 million years ago. Growing layer by layer, it resulted in minerals precipitated out of seawater. The presence of elevated concentrations of 60 Fe and 56 Mn in layers from 2.5 million years ago hints at a nearby supernova explosion around that time.
Credit: Dominik Koll/ TUM