SSRIs are prescribed mostly to treat mental depression. Because they are as effective as other types of anti-depressants and have less serious side effects, SSRIs have become the most commonly prescribed anti-depressant for all age groups, including children and adolescents. In addition to treatment of depression, some SSRIs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of other disorders including:
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- generalized anxiety disorder
- panic disorder
- social anxiety disorder or social phobia
- premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) or
- premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- bulimia nervosa (eating disorder)
SSRIs are often prescribed for other “off-label” uses including:
- various mental disorders including schizophrenia
- menopause-related symptoms, such as “hot flashes”
- geriatric depression
- loss of mental abilities in the elderly
- nicotine withdrawal
- premature ejaculation
Advantages of SSRIs as compared to other types of anti-depressants include:
- most SSRIs can be taken in one daily dose as compared with 3-6 pills daily
- because they lessen the cravings for carbohydrates, SSRIs usually do not cause weight gain
- since SSRIs do not appear to affect the cardiovascular system, they can be prescribed for people with high blood pressure or heart conditions
- since SSRIs are not particularly dangerous even in high doses and are unlikely to cause permanent damage if misused, they may be prescribed for suicidal adults.
SSRIs are mood enhancers only in depressed individuals. They have little effect on people who are not clinically depressed. However, some experts believe that SSRIs are over-prescribed and should be reserved for those with major disabling depression.
How SSRIs work: SSRIs ease depression by affecting chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) used to communicate between brain cells. The small molecules are able to get into the cerebral and spinal fluid, altering the brain long-term and in some cases, permanently. The SSRIs elevate the brain chemicals by disabling the reuptake pump that sucks serotonin back in to be recycled. You feel good temporarily until the brain prevents the drug from being recycled and becomes depleted, over stimulated. The only way to raise total brain serotonin without SSRIs is from tryptophan and good nutrients. There are some people who believe that SSRIs are very dangerous, addicting and are almost impossible to quit. When the SSRIs stop working as effectively as they did when they were first started, the dosage needs to be increased. The body builds up a tolerance and eventually the body craves these feel-good chemicals and cannot function without them. The problem is that it is a very long process to stop taking the anti-depressants and they need to be weaned slowly. The withdrawal from these anti-depressants is very unpleasant and some refer to it as “living hell.” If you stop “cold turkey” you will experience horrible withdrawal symptoms, with nausea, sweating, dizziness and vomiting. The withdrawal symptoms are very similar to those of most addicting drugs.
These drugs can be wonderful for some individuals and a nightmare for others. It should be required that the pharmaceutical companies, as well as the physicians, explain the possible side effects honestly and clearly so that patients can make an informed decision and know what they are dealing with. Not to paint a rosy picture of what life will be for them without presenting all the facts and then it is too late.