Overprescription of Antidepressants

by Dr. Daniel J. Heller September 19, 2013

We've discussed before on our blog, concerns that antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Prozac® and Zoloft®, may be overprescribed and not as effective as their prevalence would suggest.

In recent years, the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed. According to a recent review in the New York Times, 1-in-10 Americans now takes an antidepressant. At the same time, some organizations are now encouraging doctors to curb the use of antidepressants. For instance, last year, the Dutch College of General Practitioners urged its doctors to limit antidepressant prescriptions to only the most severe cases, and instead focus on other lines of treatment first.

As you read on, you’ll see that evidence is building to confirm our suspicions. So while SSRIs have helped many overcome depression, PMDD, and reclaim their lives, medical science is coming to the conclusion that for those who don’t meet the criteria for major depressive disorder, there are other options that may be just as effective—without the side effects of these medications.

A couple of years ago, we told you about a study that found that 80 percent of antidepressants are written by practitioners who aren’t psychiatrists, and that those prescriptions are often for non-psychiatric uses, such as PMS and chronic pain.

We also told you about the acclaimed scientists who have questions about whether antidepressants actually work for many of the cases in which they’re prescribed. Some studies show that, for mild or moderate depression, antidepressants are not more effective than a placebo, and that SSRIs, supposedly wonder drugs, are no more effective than the antidepressants that were used a generation or two ago.

New research has been published that supports the notion that doctors write prescription for SSRIs too easily. In the April 2013 issue of the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, it was found that two-thirds of patients diagnosed with depression did not meet the criteria for a major depressive episode as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (known as the DSM). In spite of this discrepancy, the vast majority of these patients were prescribed antidepressants.

SSRIs have a number of problematic side effects, including nausea, insomnia, reduced sexual desire, and weight gain or loss. And even for patients in whom they’re not effective, getting off SSRIs can be extremely difficult—and can lead to more depression and anxiety. For those patients who don’t benefit, these medications may be doing more harm than good.

Of course, in addition to their use in mild to moderate depression, antidepressants are the default treatment for premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. The SSRI, Sarafem, Prozac® by another name, is specifically marketed to treat PMDD. While research shows that Sarafem can be effective for PMDD, the story here may end up quite similar to SSRIs and depression. Women may be best served by considering the full range of available treatments, not just pharmaceuticals. This includes natural and holistic approaches to PMDD and depression, including our PMS Comfort herbal relief product.

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About The PMS Comfort Blog

The PMS Comfort Blog is our informal way of keeping you up to date on women’s health issues that we think are important; timely; underappreciated; useful; or just interesting. And, we’ll admit, sometimes we can’t resist poking some good-natured fun at the way the mainstream media portrays health, natural health, and women’s health issues. As always, we’d love to hear from you and are interested in knowing what you think and feel about these or other topics. Leave a comment for us, we’ll always respond. And, if there’s a women’s health topic that’s of interest to you, or that you find confusing, let us know! We want this blog to be helpful to you.


Dr. Daniel Heller is the primary author of this blog, the developer of our PMS Natural Relief Programs, and the founder of www.pmscomfort.com. He is a holistic naturopathic doctor in Northern California with over 16 years experience helping thousands of women recover from PMS, PMDD, as well as helping women, children, and families find natural answers to all manner of health challenges.


PMS Comfort is here to support you with detailed, practical knowledge presented in a balanced manner you can trust. We are committed to educating, informing, and empowering womenregarding PMS, PMDD, and women’s health, and to providing natural relief for premenstrual symptoms.



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