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Fears and Facts About Antidepressants

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Fact: Antidepressants are usually covered by insurance plans with prescription drug coverage. The cost of antidepressants varies widely, depending on the dosage, the drug you are taking, and whether it is available as a generic. Even without insurance coverage, it is possible to purchase a generic antidepressant for as little as $15 per month.

Fear: Taking an antidepressant is a sign of weakness.

Fact: Like medical conditions such as diabetes or high cholesterol, major depression is a condition that often responds to medication. When depression interferes with your ability to function normally, seeking treatment is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of good self-care.

Fear: Antidepressants increase the risk of suicide.

Fact: Studies in recent years have raised concerns that antidepressants may raise the risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors (but not deaths) among children, adolescents, and young adults. For example, a 2009 review in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) looked at 372 studies involving nearly 100,000 people who were taking antidepressants. It found that compared to placebo, antidepressants were associated with a slightly higher risk for suicidal thoughts in some children and young adults, have no effect on suicide risk among those 25 to 64, and reduce the risk in those 65 and older.

In 2004, the FDA required manufacturers of antidepressants to revise their labels to include a black box warning statement about these risks.

Other studies paint a different picture. A 2006 study published in PLoS Medicine suggests that antidepressants have saved thousands of lives. Data show that the U.S. suicide rate held fairly steady for 15 years before the popular antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) was sold and then dropped steadily over 14 years while sales of Prozac rose. The strongest effect was among women.

The bottom line: Regardless of your age or sex, it’s important to see a doctor immediately if you have suicidal thoughts.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on September 14, 2012

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