Antidepressants are a class of drug used to treat major depressive disorder and other disorders including mood disorder, anxiety , obsessive compulsive disorder and chronic pain to name a few. But it seems that there are more options now than ever, with a lot of drugs being off-label use.
Off-label use is the use of a drug for an unapproved indication, for example a drug called modafinil, used as a wakefulness promoting agent, is also being used to treat depression and also drug addiction.
A father of a dear friend of mine fell victim to the trap of depression, once treated for anxiety and depression, he was found in his garage. Though he complained about the medication, he used to say that even though it would give him strange suicidal feelings, it completely changed his life for the better.
Nearly all antidepressants come with a side effect of possibly increased suicidal thoughts and behaviours (Helpguide.org, 2016), which in a person suffering from depression, is not so surprising if they showed suicidal tendencies previously. But when patients prescribed antidepressants for obsessive compulsive disorder, where depression was not present and no prior thoughts of suicide or self-harm, start to show these symptoms, it becomes very worrying (National Center For Health Research, 2015).
Alprazolam, used to treat anxiety is short acting, it is normally required 3 times a day, as a preventative measure, but has a sedative-hypnotic effect that can be extremely dangerous given the situation. Lyrica, a medication to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain has now been proven as an off-label use for anxiety disorders, taken once or twice a day, with little side effects compared to that of Xanax.
So why am I going on about off-label uses in medications?
While there are many benefits to off-label prescribing, there are risks not only for the patient but for the doctor as well. Like lawsuits should a patient have a bad or unwanted side effect. Care should always be taken when taking medications, but the fact that an anti-nerve convulsion drug can keep you from having anxiety attacks shows that medicine and science really is at the beginning of a wonderful and beautiful ride.
Medical professionals are having to think outside the box when it comes to treatment of mental illness and with so many alternative medications that could be safer for the patient to take, and it is already proving to lower suicide rates with certain forms of depression (Lewitzka et al., 2015).
National Center For Health Research. (2015). Do antidepressants increase suicide attempts?. [online] Available at: http://center4research.org/child-teen-health/suicide/do-anti-depressants-increase-suicide-attempts/ [Accessed 1 May 2016].
Lewitzka, U., Severus, E., Bauer, R., Ritter, P., Müller-Oerlinghausen, B. and Bauer, M. (2015). The suicide prevention effect of lithium: more than 20 years of evidence—a narrative review. Int J Bipolar Disord, 3(1).
Helpguide.org. (2016). Types of Antidepressants and Their Side Effects: SSRIs, Atypical Antidepressants, Tricyclic Antidepressants, and MAOIs. [online] Available at: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/types-of-antidepressants-and-their-side-effects.htm [Accessed 3 May 2016].