Will we ever wake up to the deadly risks of happy pills?
As new research reveals antidepressants raise the danger of heart attacks, the disturbing cost of this modern addiction
Just as David Cameron launches his campaign to boost national happiness, along comes grim news for the 12 million Britons taking happy pills. London-based researchers have just announced that antidepressants raise the risk of fatal heart attacks.
This research is only the latest wake-up call for a nation hooked on happy pills. Might we finally heed the warnings and shake ourselves out of our pharmaceutical stupor?
It is high time we did: a small mountain of studies shows that antidepressant drugs are largely ineffective. But more than that, they can ruin lives by creating chronic dependency and a grinding hopelessness that sometimes leads to self-neglect and death.
The latest study, by Dr Mark Hamer, a public health researcher at University College London, shows that people on the older drugs — tricyclic antidepressants — are at far higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those taking the newer class of pills, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
But if I were taking SSRIs, I would not be cheered by the findings. Tricyclics were discovered in the Forties and it is only now we have identified these dangerous effects.
Moreover, some SSRI drugs are known to cause serious problems such as stomach bleeding. In addition, the withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that patients may become dependent on them.
Dr Hamer says his findings do not only affect people with depression, because antidepressants are also prescribed to people with back pain, headache, anxiety and sleeping problems.
Last year, according to Dr Hamer’s figures, about 33 million antidepressant prescriptions were dispensed in England.
At some point, surely, there will be no one left to prescribe for. In my view, it’s fast becoming one of the greatest medical scandals of our age.