More than one in 10 people older than age 12 in the United States take antidepressants, and more than half of them are women, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study, conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, involved data from 2005 to 2008 and showed that use of antidepressants soared nearly 400 percent in the United States since the late 1980s, when the first SSRI hit the market.
SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are a type of antidepressant. Brand names include Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Lexapro. Prozac was the first SSRI to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Another surprising find was that only one-third of people with severe depression take antidepressants, which means many people with severe depression are going untreated. It may also indicate that many people with more mild forms of the condition are taking SSRIs.
Critics argue that SSRIs are overly prescribed, exposing thousands of people to unnecessary side effects that include headaches, dizziness, nervousness and diminished sexual desire. Considering women make up most of the users of SSRIs, they should also be aware that SSRIs can cause birth defects in developing fetuses if taken by the mother while she is pregnant.
Studies have shown that SSRI use during pregnancy can cause babies to be born with heart defects, defects of the brain and spine, and even lung defects including a life threatening condition known as persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns. However, drug companies that sell SSRIs do not properly warn users of these serious risks. As a result, many of these companies face lawsuits from women who say their babies were needlessly harmed by the drugs.