Picture: File Antidepressants could increase the risk of an early death by a third,

TAKING antidepressants could increase the risk of an early death by a third, a major study suggests.

The drugs – among the most commonly prescribed in the UK – do more harm than good, researchers claim, and their use should be severely curtailed.

Psychiatrists disputed the latest findings, arguing that they have been safely used for years and offer a lifeline for depressed people. But the study suggests that the risk of death when taking them is much greater than previously thought – among those who do not have heart disease – because they thin the blood.

Scientists at McMaster University in Canada combined the results from 17 previous studies, analysing the impact on nearly 380,000 people. Their analysis suggested just a 9 per cent increased risk of death among those who took antidepressants when compared to those who did not– a result they admitted was not statistically significant. But they then removed the people suffering from cardiovascular disease from the findings, and found the chance of death among the remaining patients jumped to 33 per cent.

Scientists believe this is because antidepressants are also a blood thinner, which protects the health of people with heart disease because it stops blood clotting. However, among people without heart disease, it increases the risk of a major haemorrhage or internal bleeding.

Study leader Paul Andrews said. ‘We are very concerned by these results. They suggest that we shouldn’t be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body. I think these drugs for most people are doing more harm than good and physicians ought not to generally prescribe them.’

The researchers found that among people who do not have cardiovascular disease, taking antidepressants increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 14 per cent.

The use of antidepressants is dramatically increasing, with 64.7million prescriptions given out in England last year – double the number of a decade ago.

One in 11 of all British adults are thought to have recently used the pills.

Professor David Baldwin, a psychiatrist at Southampton University and chairman of the psychopharmacology committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: ‘Unfortunately this study has major flaws. Depressed patients have higher risks of a range of physical health problems, all of which carry a risk of increased mortality, and antidepressants are often prescribed for a range of problems other than depression, including chronic pain and insomnia, which also increase mortality.’

He added: ‘The analysis included patients who were prescribed antidepressants at any dose and for any duration, but the analysis takes no account of this.’


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