Opinion | Antidepressants warrant caution with use

By Chiara Awatramani, Senior Columnist

Mental illnesses, in specific depression, have become more prevalent in our society than ever before. In the United States alone, according to Mental Health America, 15% of youth experienced one major depressive episode in 2019. This massive youth population deserves proper, permanent treatment to alleviate symptoms.

Upon being diagnosed with depression, many young adults turn to a class of pharmaceuticals broadly referred to as antidepressants to alleviate their symptoms. Examples of these include SSRIs — like Lexapro, Prozac and Zoloft — and SNRIs, like Cymbalta and Fetzima. While drugs provide quicker relief from symptoms of depression than therapy and oftentimes benefit the user significantly, they should be used with caution and only secondary to therapy.

There are two types of treatment for depression: antidepressants and therapy. Antidepressants carry many more side effects, including nausea, agitation, decreased libido, loss of appetite and insomnia, whereas therapy carries no universal negative side effects. Knowing this, we clearly understand that drugs cause more unwanted effects to their users than therapy.

With the cost being greater for using pharmaceuticals, shouldn’t the outcome also be better?

Not according to the National Institution of Health, which states, “contrasting with the lack of evidence of enduring effects of ADMs (antidepressants) is the substantiation of claims that CT (cognitive therapy) provides protection against relapse and, possibly, recurrence.” Essentially, antidepressants alleviate symptoms temporarily but do not succeed in terminating depressive symptoms completely — a feat that therapy can complete. Therefore, therapy should fall to the forefront of young minds when considering treatments for depression.

In other words, therapy should always be prescribed for depression seeing as there are only benefits while antidepressants should be used hesitantly and only when symptoms cannot be alleviated with therapy alone.

One of the reasons many people take antidepressants unnecessarily is due to the pressure pharmaceutical companies put on hospitals and doctors to prescribe drugs. With this increasing pressure to make money off drugs like Prozac, doctors sign off on prescriptions for these drugs for patients that might have been able to alleviate their symptoms over time using therapy.

Hence, it’s only fair to America’s youth to promote the use of therapy while cautioning the use of prescription drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft for treating depression. If our goal is to treat youth to the best of our ability, therapy should be the primary treatment for depression and antidepressants viewed as a supplement.

Chiara is a sophomore in LAS.

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