Thursday, May 21, 2009

More Evidence Antidepressants are Bad

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I'm well known for being an antidepressant hater because of their well-documented effects on sexual desire and orgasm. I should note that the debate continues about whether antidepressants are at fault in all cases or whether those taking them had low desire to begin with, since many times decreased desire for sex is a symptom of depression itself. Whatever.

I'm less well known as an alumnae of Mr. Jefferson's University (aka the University of Virginia) and occasionally read the lame alumni magazine they send me. So imagine my surprise when I read this article in the new issue, which had this to say:
"Biological anthropologist Helen Fisher of Rutgers University and U.Va. psychiatrist James Thomson (Med '74) theorize that the possibility of love itself is blunted by SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), the most common type of antidepressants. They say they've seen evidence that antidepressants alter brain chemistry in a way that reduces the chance a person can fall in love or feel strong romantic attachment."

This is big, I think--while there are patients for whom antidepressants are absolutely necessary, as someone who has been the romantic partner of someone taking these drugs, this speaks to my experience to a certain extent. So we can add "inability to fall in love" to the list of reasons taking antidepressants might not actually be a good way to treat depression. But this is a challenge to Science to figure out how to treat medical conditions in a way that doesn't turn people into feelingsless robots. Prescribing physicians (especially psychiatrists) need to be forthcoming with patients about sexual side effects and understand that, for some patients, these effects are totally intolerable. But that's another post.


Alyssa said...

In America's need for a "quick" fix resorting to antidepressants has always been the way. I wonder if universal health care will change this?

leftistquaker said...

Hi Guli,

As someone whose decade of depression was *cured* by Prozac, and whose wife is now using Cymbalta, I have some experience with this.

Yes, Prozac and Cymbalta definitely inhibit sexual response. Neither of us experienced lesser desire, though, so I wonder if this is being misunderstood. I think it is similar to the effect (so I've heard) of ecstasy, your sensual and affectionate feelings increase, but your ability to climax is decreased.

In both of our cases, we feel more affectionate and content while taking SSRIs, which is a huge improvement for depressives. However, we have yet to figure out how, in her case especially, to acheive normal orgasm while under the influence. We have a couple vibrators, but may have to invest in "heavy artillery" to make it possible for her to climax in something like a reasonable amount of time. I mean, when an orgasm takes two hours, as fun as getting there may be, it's exhausting!

Peace! Charley

sta┼Ťa said...

I should note that the debate continues about whether antidepressants are at fault in all cases or whether those taking them had low desire to begin with, since many times decreased desire for sex is a symptom of depression itself.Wow. What amazing BS and money-making doubletalk.

Okay, if we're going to be technical, this is true. One of the symptoms of depression is lowered libido. So if anti-depressant meds also lower libido, then no, they're not completely responsible for lowering libido in all cases.

However, anti-depressant medications are also prescribed for lots of other things besides depression, including migraine prevention and chronic pain.

When they cut libido off at the knees for such patients -- or orgasm -- one really cannot reasonably argue that the anti-depressants are not at fault.


I was in this fix. Migraines certainly interfered with my sex life (not to mention the rest of my life). Take anti-depressants and maybe have less sex or fewer orgasms, but maybe have fewer migraines and more of a rest of my life? In my case, it was, take anti-depressants, have less sex and fewer orgasms, AND have the same number of migraines, b/c as with depression, sometimes you have to try a bunch of different preventive meds before you hit one that works well.

And even if it's not "just" lowered libido, but lowered ability to have an orgasm, that itself discourages people from having sex.

For depression, meds are rarely a "quick fix"; they take a while to kick in. But they fit into the medical establishment way better than talk therapy. And they make a WHOLE lot more money. Even though the data continue to show that, depending on what kind of depression you have, talk therapy, or the combination of talk therapy and medication, is most effective.

I am very grateful that anti-depressants exist, and that better anti-depressants exist today than did, say, when I was a kid. They can save lives. But that doesn't mean that we're using them appropriately. It's reminding me of the fix we've gotten ourselves into with antibiotics and MSRA and other resistant super-bacteria.

I'll get off my soapbox now. :)

Go-To Girl said...

I totally agree, Stasa, I just know people for whom these drugs are so important that even though to me, as someone who has not needed them myself (but has been in relationship with someone who did) they are obviously so bad, I like to give that one little caveat. But I agree, they are totally not honest about the extent to which the meds effect sex and sex drive which can, in some cases, ruin the patient's relationship which, you'd think, would make them more depressed.