How Safe Are Mental Health Prescriptions?

By · July 22, 2009 · Filed in Awareness, Balance, Information, Self Help

Mental health treatment, despite recent advancements in the field, continues to carry a stigma which suggests abnormality and promotes exclusion.  Moreover, mental health continues to be segregated from the field of General Health, and the serious nature of these illnesses is regularly discounted.  Those suffering from common ailments, such as depression and anxiety, not only face a litany of troubling symptoms, but are forced to suffer these symptoms secretly, in fear of being stereotyped or profiled by a world that remains in ignorance about mental illness.  When mental health patients finally decide to seek treatment, many are “at the end of their rope,” and are willing to try just about anything in hope of returning to a “normal” life.

The first step taken by doctors is usually a strategy which involves prescribing medication, thought to ease persistent symptoms.  Doctors hope to control the symptoms of depression and anxiety by adjusting the levels of certain chemicals in the brain.   Today’s most prescribed drugs fall under a category called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.  SSRIs work to control the brain’s level of serotonin—a neurotransmitter which regulates mood and behavior.  Drugs belonging to this class include brand names like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil and are prescribed at an alarming rate.

Many patients have experienced some degree of relief from these medications, but predictably, drugs of this kind are not without their problems.  Most people report at least some detrimental side effects when taking SSRIs, and in isolated cases, these drugs have proven dangerous, if not fatal.  The most alarming side effect, a propensity for violent and self-destructive behavior, including suicidal ideation, seems to be experienced very early on in a medication regiment, and is especially profound in young adults.  The school shooting rampage in Columbine, gave rise to heated debates over antidepressants and adolescents, as it was documented that at least one of the shooters was being treated with these medications.  Other school shootings show similar evidence to support this alarming correlation.  In addition, suicide rates for young adults taking SSRI medications are five times that of their non-medicated peers.

These SSRIs have a laundry list of side effects and many experts wonder if they are not creating more problems than their solving.  Here’s a short list:

SSRI Side Effects:






Loss of appetite

Sexual difficulties


Effexor, a popular drug that lies outside of the SSRI category, is commonly prescribed to treat both Depression and Anxiety disorders.  It too comes with a suitcase full of troubling side effects and has also been known to cause increased blood pressure in patients.  Hypertension is the leading cause of heart attacks, and the use of Effexor has been linked now to heart conditions that have proved fatal.

Other serious side effects like stomach bleeding, seizures and death have also been reported in rare cases.  Rare or not, losing your life as a solution to any situation is scary, and certainly not necessary with all of the options in mental health today.

Why should the solution put you at risk of more disease, likely worse than what you started with, and even increase your chance of death? It shouldn’t.  Think about this.  Your car breaks down in the middle of the desert. Say you find a solution, but the risk if you choose it is that your car might blow up and you’ll die.  The really isn’t any question that 99% of us would walk 100 miles if needed in that hot desert heat in order to find another option right?

The logic behind this thinking is exactly why many promising new drug-free alternative therapies are quickly becoming more popular.  The time is now to seek out and only support solutions that are proven to work, with the bare-minimum side effects, zero preferred.

Within this environment, characterized by a barrage of prescriptions, some doctors are seeking a more comprehensive approach to mental health.  Cognitive therapy and behavioral modification are used in conjunction with medication to learn more about the deeply hidden causes of these ailments.

More recently, techniques such as meditation, magnetic therapy and subconscious restructuring have been employed as well.  The goal:  identify and treat the root of depression or anxiety, rather than just the symptoms.

Natural supplements—vitamins and minerals—are also being used as an alternative to prescription medication.  Find out more about 10 mental health supplements here.

It seems today there are as many treatment techniques and supplements as there are patients, and more will undoubtedly emerge, trying to capture a piece of the mental health market.  That’s not necessarily bad news, it may even be encouraging.  The trend to find alternate treatments—treatments which are more holistic and comprehensive in their approach—is promising, in that it seeks to replace the singular approach that exists now, which relies predominantly on potentially harmful drugs.

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