Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a common treatment for depression and other mental health disorders. While these drugs have helped many people lead happy and fulfilling lives, they’re not without their risks. Harvard Health Publishing explains some of the most common risks so you can make the best decisions when it comes to your mental health and wellness.
One of the most troubling risks of SSRIs is these drugs may actually increase suicidal thoughts and self-harm. This led to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to include black box labels on certain drugs in 2004. This risk is most prevalent for young people, including kids and teens, which naturally causes concern for parents. While treatment responses are different for every patient, doctors must clearly communicate these risks to patients. They must also monitor patient health closely, especially when first taking the drug.
Many patients also complain of effects related to lowered libido or lack of interest in sex. While these risks are not inherently dangerous, they can imperil a person’s romantic relationships and cause a great deal of dissatisfaction with life in general. One solution is to lower the dose, but this often impacts a person’s treatment for depression. Other drugs may also be prescribed to counter these effects.
Conversely, the onset of serotonin syndrome is a greater health concern. This usually happens due to a drug interaction, which occurs when taking another drug that also increases serotonin activity in the body. Serotonin syndrome is characterized by rapid heartbeat, fever, high blood pressure, and sweating. Doctors must be vigilant when prescribing medications to treat mental health disorders. This is especially true when treating bi-polar disorder, which often requires an SSRI as well as lithium, which is known to increase serotonin activity.