SSRIs not Linked to Autism, but are They Effective?

Seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been around for over two decades, and controversy surrounding them is as abundant as it’s ever been.

For example, there have been concerns that the use of SSRIs by women before and during pregnancy may account for why diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder has been on the rise, especially since this increase more or less coincides with the advent of the modern antidepressant.

The current issue of The New England Journal of Medicine is publishing the results of a Danish study that set out to determine whether or not these concerns are valid. For the study, the researchers examined data from 626,875 births in Denmark from 1996-2005 gathering patient data on women among the group who used SSRIs before and during pregnancy.

Among these half a million+ births, the researchers discovered 3,892 diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder among the children of these women.  Of those cases, 52 of the women used anti-depressants before and during their pregnancy — the researchers concluded that there was no significant association between autism and the use of SSRIs.

SSRI Controversy

Despite the results of this current study, antidepressants in general have been under attack for several years, some two decades after Prozac was introduced into the market in 1987.

While its efficacy in major depressive disorder has been pretty well established, some studies suggest that SSRIs are not effective in those who suffer from minor depression.

In spite of the negligible impact, the DSM-V suggests that patients suffering from bereavement should be prescribed antidepressants if their symptoms of sadness last longer than two weeks. Two WEEKS?! For being in MOURNING?!?

And Still MORE Controversy

A recent article in JAMA Psychiatry asserts that grief presents and runs a very different course than that of major depressive disorder.  Grief is a natural part of life; major depressive disorder is not — it’s, well, a disorder, for cryin’ out loud!

Additionally, some studies have shown that 12-16 psychotherapy sessions help just as much, if not more, than taking SSRIs for a period of time.

Then, there was the 2009 study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry that SSRIs actually “work”, not by changing mood, but by changing personality.

The push by pharmaceutical companies to make us feel as though any angst or disconcerting thought that flits across our minds shouldn’t be tolerated is absurd at best; at worst, it’s a little scary. We’re not robots, after all — we’re human beings.

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