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ICU Patients Taking SSRI, SNRI Antidepressants Have Higher Mortality Rates

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A new study reveals that Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients taking serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) and serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRIs) antidepressants have increased mortality rates. SSRIs include drugs sold under the brand names Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft and block the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Altering serotonin balance helps brain cells send and receive chemical messages, which boosts mood, explained NewsInferno. Other antidepressants that impact serotonin levels include SNRIs such as Effexor and Strattera. The study, conducted by researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, found that SSRIs and SNRIs are not as safe as once thought when taken by patients suffering serious illness in addition to depression, said Daily Rx. According to study member, Katherine M. Berg MD, “We found that mortality was higher overall for patients taking antidepressants prior to admission to the ICU and remained significantly higher a year later. We also found

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that certain subgroups of patients, particularly patients admitted for cardiac problems, appeared to be at even greater risk,” according to Daily Rx. The team reviewed records for 10,568 people who either died while in the hospital or within one year of being treated in the ICU. Of those, said Daily Rx, 1,876 patients were taking an SSRI or SNRI at admission and were 73% likelier to die in the hospital or within 12 months of being in the ICU, versus those not on these antidepressant medications, said Daily Rx. Further, cardiac patients, for instance those with acute coronary syndrome or cardiac surgery, were at the greatest risk—double that seen in other patient groups, wrote Daily Rx. NewsInferno recently wrote that another study found that benefits might not outweigh SSRI risks, raising more concerns about the drug group’s safety. The study, which appeared in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, was conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Canada. “It is widely believed that antidepressant medications are both safe and effective; however, this belief was formed in the absence of adequate scientific verification,” the researchers wrote. “The weight of current evidence suggests that, in general, antidepressants are neither safe nor effective; they appear to do more harm than good.” The researchers reviewed prior patient studies into the effects of antidepressants. McMaster’s press release stated that antidepressants that impact the brain’s seratonin levels can cause side effects related to any bodily process that is normally regulated by the chemical and can produce a number of side effects, including birth defects in infants; sexual dysfunction and sperm development problems in adults; diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, bloating, and other digestive problems; and abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly. That team also noted that elderly users of SSRIs were likelier to die than nonusers, even after considering important variables, said NewsInferno. “Serotonin is an ancient chemical,” lead research and evolutionary biologist, Paul Andrews, said in the press release. “It’s intimately regulating many different processes, and when you interfere with these things you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it’s going to cause some harm.”

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