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Wide-Ranging International Study Finds Antidepressants Are Safe

A new international study published in JAMA Psychiatry looks at 45 meta-analyses, covering some 1,000 studies, and finds that antidepressants are generally safe.

There has been a sharp growth of antidepressant use worldwide. These drugs rank third among prescribed medications and fourth among sold medications. It is estimated that up to 10 percent of American adults take at least one antidepressant.

But the safety profile of antidepressants has remained somewhat controversial. Some prior studies have found strong associations between antidepressants and some adverse health outcomes, while others have not.

“As far as we know, this is the first study to assess the safety and adverse health outcomes associated with antidepressant use on such a large scale, considering real-world data. However, it is important to note that our study did not evaluate the efficacy of the drugs,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Elena Dragioti, at Link√∂ping University, Sweden.

Meta-analysis studies combine the results of independent studies, improving the power and generalizability or application of the research. Researchers systematically assessed the evidence from 45 reviewed meta-analyses that included more than 1,000 observational studies. These are studies that observe whether there are differences between individuals who are exposed to a treatment and those who are not, without any intervention from a researcher.

The studies included covered different age groups, underlying psychiatric conditions, and possible adverse health outcomes.

“We found that all of the adverse health outcomes reported in observational studies that were supported by strong evidence were actually probably due to the underlying psychiatric conditions for which antidepressants had been prescribed, rather than the antidepressants themselves. Most of these studies also suffered from several biases, such as a lack of randomization,” said Dr. Marco Solmi, psychiatrist and visiting researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London.

Despite the positive review, experts explain that more research is necessary.

“Even though we have shown that antidepressants are generally safe, we should note that adverse effects must be monitored clinically during antidepressant treatment. Further, we have only limited evidence from randomized clinical trials about long-term adverse health outcomes.

“Moreover, we were not able to assess several newer antidepressants due to limited available data,” says senior author Dr. Evangelos Evangelou, epidemiologist from the University of Ioannina, Greece and Imperial College, London, UK.

Source: Linkoping University

Wide-Ranging International Study Finds Antidepressants Are Safe

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2019). Wide-Ranging International Study Finds Antidepressants Are Safe. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 3 Oct 2019 (Originally: 3 Oct 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 3 Oct 2019
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