20 Facts About Antidepressants


1) 1/10 people in America are currently taking an antidepressant (AD)

2) Michael Jackson was reportedly taking Zoloft and Paxil when he died.  Antidepressants have been shown to contribute to heart disease.

3) Luvox was being taken by a shooter in the Columbine High School shootings.

4) We have no idea how antidepressants actually work

5) Effexor’s side effects include vomiting and nausea, while Zoloft is associated with diarrhea

6) Almost all of the new ADs work similarly well (or badly) – the only significant difference is what side effects they have

7) ADs can cause extreme anger in some people, and there are many lawsuits against AD drug companies for resulting violence

8) Prozac is the best recognized AD with the most references to it in music and popular culture

9) Anna Nicole Smith’s son was taking Lexapro when he died

10) Paxil is one of the hardests ADs to quit.

11) ADs can be extremely hard to quit.  Withdrawal, which is a very common problem, can involve “brain zaps” and general horrible feelings.

12) Some antidepressants work only 50% of the time.  Placebo?  That works about 30%.  Big difference?

13) Remeron has been linked to immune system failure

14) Antidepressants can cause suicidal thinking in children and perhaps adults

15) Celexa is used in autistic children who have OCD-like behavior, but it doesn’t seem to help

16) Antidepressants can possibly cause birth defects

17) Tricylcic antidepressants are poisonous and can be deadly if an overdose happens

18) The SSRIs (including Zoloft and Prozac) cause sexual dysfunction in most people who take them

19) Kids as young as two have been put on antidepressants

20) Wellbutrin very often causes extreme anxiety and can rarely make the taker lose touch with reality

21) Bonus: Women who take antidepressants are at a 45% increase risk of having a stroke.

You might like:

Do Antidepressants Work As Promised?

10 Ways Scientists Lie About Drugs

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Pharmaceutical analyst who loves blogging about health and medical issues. Has written more than 150 articles and a book on attention deficit disorder. Correctly predicted delayed approval of Bydureon, approval of Provenge by FDA, and the non-approval of Acthar on June 11.

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  1. There is so much misinformation about antidepressants on the web that it makes it a scary journey. What people need to know is that antidepressants make therapy possible and that is where the real recovery begins.

  2. David–saw your blog on Facebook, and as a psych major and someone who’s worked with the severely mentally ill in a hospital setting I had to comment. It is true that antidepressants can have some pretty bad side effects. It is true that antidepressants do not always work. However, it is also true that:
    Antidepressants can be an essential component of treatment for depression or anxiety. Therapy and lifestyle changes alone will not always do the trick, especially for severe and long-lasting depression.

    It is absolutely possible to take an antidepressant without experiencing any noticeable side effects. If you do get side effects from one antidepressant, you might not get side effects from another, and your side effects will probably go away soon after you stop the antidepressant (though admittedly the sexual side effects can stick around for a while). There’s no point in scaring people away from antidepressants by reporting on rare, non-permanent side effects and unrelated factoids.

    Some more points:
    What precisely does “often” mean in reference to side effects? It certainly doesn’t mean “most of the time.”

    On 11: This is why any competent psychiatrist will taper you off an AD. Besides, it’s not exactly like going off heroin–withdrawal side effects beyond harmless dizziness/brain zaps are rare, as far as I know. You don’t physically crave an antidepressant after you go cold turkey on it, you just feel kind of weird.

    On 16: SSRIs come with a warning not to take them if you might be pregnant.

    On 17: Tricyclics are generally prescribed for things like IBS and chronic pain, not so much suicidal depression. There aren’t a lot of tricyclics being prescribed these days in general, much less to people who are at risk of overdosing on them.

    I could keep going on, but I’ll stop here. I know that you’re trying to make this blog friendly for a general audience, but you need to cite figures and sources if you want people to honestly be informed about their medication choices.

    • Dear Eva,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I don’t doubt that antidepressants do have uses.

      The problem is that antidepressants are heavily overprescribed and very often for conditions for which there is no scientific evidence for their use. They have serious side effects that are pretty common, with many doctors reporting that more than half of patients experience sexual dysfunction alone. They are addictive and can be very hard to quit. 25% of people taking Paxil, for instance, have trouble quitting.

      The type of withdrawal we’re talking about can be excessive moodiness, insomnia, and great agitation. It can be as extreme as psychosis.

      They aren’t benign drugs. They’re heavily prescribed with little understanding of how they work or what they do. And they aren’t nearly as effective as people would have you believe.

      For someone taking Celexa, a popular antidepressant, for a year, what is the chance of remission?

      30%. How does that compare to placebo, again?

      How many people on antidepressants report suicidal ideation? 4% versus 2% for placebo treated. And what about their use in children? Or bipolar?

      It’s absurd what’s going on. They do have valid uses, but can you honestly tell me that one out of ten people should be on them? You might be interested in my article, Do Antidepressants Work As Promised?


  3. Some more fun facts:

    So 25% of Paxil users have difficulty stopping.
    And 23% of Heroin users become addicted, according to a National Comorbidity Survey.

  4. What about Lexapro? Dose anyone know if it is difficult to stop taking? I am so many meds and I am trying to take myself off of some and I am having a very hard time.
    Thanks, Denny

  5. I appreciate the information, however, it didn’t look well researched. If you are going to inform people, list the sources for your statements.

  6. I really enjoyed this article. It made me think, which I always appreciate. I would like to add, on the other side of it – during a very tough time in my life, when I had become an absolute zombie, I was prescribed Zoloft – and it changed my life. After three months, I began living, and after five I tapered down and have not been on anything since. (Five years now) THAT is my idea of what it is for. To help you get over a hump when you are absolutely stuck. How I discovered I no longer needed it? I caught myself singing in the shower and knew I was through the tunnel. How cool is that? lol Again, great list.

  7. My best friend would be dead if not for her prescriptions…

  8. william stevens

    Yes, antidepressant may help some people, but they are handed out like candy from some doctors, and have basically ruined my life. You are right, they are not like getting off herion; they are more difficult. I’m not by any means supporting herion, but, once off, it will leave you alone, in my understanding. Getting off antidepressants, in some situations, will never leave you alone because they have chemically changed your brain. There side effects are dangerous; eventually, this will come out; so, if you have never been on this poison, don’t comment. Big Pharma knows what they have done to people, and the game is “make a buck.” Countless peoples lifes have been ruined when they were given this wicked medicine unneedlessly by doctors who know nothing about them except what the representative have told them.

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