‘Off label’ use of antidepressants – be fully informed

Antidepressants have been shrouded in controversy for decades due to the effects that have been reported when people take them, effects that include aggression, violence and suicidal thoughts.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a recent study found that antidepressants are being prescribed ‘off-label.’ This means the drugs are being prescribed for uses other than what has been approved by the drug regulator. In other words, they are being used outside of their licensed use.

What else are they being prescribed for? According to the NHS Choices website, a particular type of antidepressant can sometimes be used to treat bedwetting in children. That’s hard to believe, but prescribers are willing to give dangerous drugs to children who wet the bed. Some of the other issues for which the drugs are used off-label include back pain or neck pain, people who eat too much, for women during the menstrual cycle and for migraines.

Now consider the media attention that has been given to these drugs over the years. Antidepressants have been linked with many of the schoolyard shootings in the United States. At least 35 school shootings and/or school associated acts of violence which includes guns, knives, and swords have been committed by students and others taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs. They’ve also been linked with acts of senseless violence such as murder-suicides, as well as being linked with suicides all over the world.

Knowing that these effects exist when taking or withdrawing from the drug, it is extraordinary to think they are being used off-label. You look further and find the off-label practice has been going on a very long time. A random check to see some of the reasons antidepressants are being prescribed off label, as above, reveals bizarre and worrying prescribing habits.

It is a matter of full informed consent when anyone is offered antidepressants. As with any kind of drug treatment, informed consent is something that does not get the attention or importance it deserves. In fact, being fully informed about the drugs and their adverse reactions could result in their usage declining as people would say no.

It would include knowing the drugs have been linked to effects such as, but not limited to, higher heart disease, stroke risk, internal bleeding, birth defects, as well as violence, aggression, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behaviour.

This is a message to anyone who is offered antidepressants as a form of ‘treatment’ for any type of condition, off-label or not. Be fully informed so you can make a fully informed choice for yourself or in the case of parents, a fully informed choice for your child. Children rely on their parents to make that decision and that fully informed choice.

Further reading: Antidepressants: the facts about the effects

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