Of all the drugs that drive me absolutely insane, few infuriate me quite as much as antidepressants. Yet they remain one of the top ten drugs in the country, even as research continues to expose one shocking side effect after another.
This would be bad enough if the only reason doctors prescribed these drugs was to address depression and anxiety. But unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Antidepressants are widely used as a treatment for back and arthritis pain, too. Which makes the fact that they’re largely ineffective just that much more outrageous.
But as usual, you don’t have to take my word for it. Let’s take a look at some recent research…
Commonly prescribed drugs don’t actually kill pain
Researchers at the University of Sydney analyzed published data from more than 30 randomized, controlled trials featuring more than 5,000 adults with chronic pain. (In this case, lower back or neck pain, sciatica, or hip or knee arthritis.)
Results showed that serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs, which include Strattera and Cymbalta) did reduce back pain after three months. But the effect according to pain scales was clinically insignificant compared to placebo.
These drugs had a slightly stronger effect in the case of osteoarthritis. But it still only delivered a 9.7-point difference in pain on a scale of 0 to 100—not exactly anything to write home about.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs, which include Elavil) were also ineffective for back pain. Meanwhile, results showed that TCAs and SNRIs might help with sciatica—but the evidence wasn’t certain enough to say for sure and, therefore, was inconclusive.
But considering the risks of antidepressants alone—including a 33 percent higher risk of death—I think it’s safe to say that there’s plenty to be concerned about here. Especially when you consider this finding as well…
NSAIDs double the danger
It’s been well documented that when taken separately, both antidepressants and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause an increased risk for abnormal gastrointestinal bleeding. But recent studies have also shown that when these two drugs are combined, the risk of brain bleeds increased 1.5 times, often within 30 days of combining the two medications. (Men had more than double the risk than women did. But I’d say any risk in this situation is too much.)
And if doctors are going to be doling out antidepressants for back pain and arthritis, knowing that these same patients are likely to be taking NSAIDs on top of it, then there should at least be a significant research-supported benefit.
Clearly, though, that’s not the case. So if you ask me, it’s way past time we took a different approach to chronic pain relief.
I’ve shared natural solutions for relief—like acupuncture and curcumin—here before. But if you suffer from chronic pain, you need to know all of your options. I outline them in the September 2020 issue of my monthly Logical Health Alternatives (“Common, but deadly: Popular over-the-counter pain meds do more harm than good”). So if you haven’t already, consider subscribing today.
“Antidepressants largely ineffective for back pain and osteoarthritis.” Science Daily, 01/20/2021. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/01/210120204039.htm)