In Canada, we live in one of the most beautiful countries on this planet — we should be happy, right?
The sad reality is, Canadians are among the world’s heaviest users of antidepressants. With approximately 9 percent of the population taking at least one mood-boosting drug, it’s clear that we’re abusing these medications.
What effect do they have on not only our physical health but our mental and cognitive health?
Being the third-highest consumer of antidepressants, this trend is not unique to Canada. These effects are being seen across the globe. In Australia, for instance, antidepressant use has doubled since 2000. We know that these drugs come with a long list of possible side effects, but could they really influence dementia risk?
Antidepressant Use May Double Your Risk of Dementia
Antidepressant use is through the roof and unfortunately, it may influence our cognitive health. Based on a new study, popular pills, such as Prozac, have been linked to a twofold increase in dementia risk. This association was even stronger when individuals took these drugs before the age of 65.
Although the researchers stated that this study does not prove cause and effect, the results are most certainly concerning. It’s not just the frequency of use that’s an issue here — it’s the way in which these SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are being prescribed.
Of course, they’re being given to those who feel blue, but this class of drugs is also being dished out for pain, insomnia, and even hot flashes. From the young to the old, and every age in between, antidepressants are overprescribed and are being handed out for off-label conditions. Meaning, for non-depression ailments, antidepressants are the go-to solution.
In 2015, more than 50 million antidepressant prescriptions were dispensed in Canada. Although the true cause of dementia, more specifically Alzheimer’s, is not fully understood, depression is certainly a possible contributing factor.
This link is fairly clear, but at the end of the day, not everyone with depression develops Alzheimer’s, just as not everyone with Alzheimer’s suffers from depression. This is what led researchers to take a new approach, focusing more so on the drugs used to treat depression.
The Brain, Depression and Alzheimer’s
Within this recent study, the lead researcher was interested in a class of molecules known as monoamines. These include the brain chemicals known as noradrenaline and serotonin. Once the brain begins to chance among Alzheimer’s patients this cluster of cells that make these neurotransmitters are among the first to die.
Since antidepressants specifically target monoamines, the researchers believe it’s only natural to see how they’re influencing the brain in relation to dementia. After pooling data from five studies, including 1.5 million people, it was concluded that dementia patients were twice as likely to have been exposed to antidepressants in comparison to non-dementia patients.
When looking at those under the age of 65, their risk was threefold — more than likely due to longer drug use. Like many dementia studies, this data raises more questions than answers. Although the answers may not be clear, it’s apparent that a true association exists.
The takeaway here is, the link between Alzheimer’s and antidepressants is “biologically plausible.” If you are suffering from depression, you can take action without relying on powerful drugs that may be doing more harm than good.
Please visit CMHA for more information, and take proactive measures today.
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