New research indicates that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants may cause digestive problems, and in some cases, even worsen depression. According to the study, published in Frontiers in Evolutionary Psychology, serotonin, the chemical targeted by SSRI antidepressants, impacts many bodily functions, and altering its levels may cause a wide range of unwanted effects.
SRI antidepressants include drugs sold under the names Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft. SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain to boost mood. According to the lead author of this new study, altering serotonin levels in the brain can also cause digestive problems, sexual difficulties and even strokes and premature deaths in older people.
“We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs,’ says lead researcher Paul Andrews, an assistant professor of evolutionary psychology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.
According to a report published in the Daily Mail, Andrews argues that because SSRI antidepressants interfere with the brain, they leave patients vulnerable to a ‘rebound’ depression of even greater intensity than before. Once a patient stops using an SSRI after a prolonged period of treatment, the brain compensates by lowering its levels of serotonin production, Andrews said. He also pointed out that altering levels of the serotonin over a long period of time changes the way receptors in the brain respond to the chemical, making the brain less sensitive to the chemical. While these changes are believed to be temporary, Andrews asserts they can linger for years.
Andrews also pointed out that antidepressants can disrupt all the physical processes that are normally regulated by serotonin, as most of the chemical is housed in the gut. This can lead to developmental problems in infants, problems with sexual stimulation and sperm development in adults, digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, indigestion and bloating, and abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly, the Daily Mail said.
Three studies reviewed by Andrews also found elderly antidepressant users are more likely to die prematurely than non-users, even after taking other important variables into account.