Top prescribed drug largely ineffective (and dangerous!)

Just yesterday, we talked about how many older adults take an extensive list of prescription drugs that are either inappropriately prescribed or harmful to their health. 

So, today, allow me to focus on one drug class in particular that I particularly loathe.  

They remain one of the top ten drugs in the country, even as research exposes one shocking side effect after another. 

Worse yet?  

They’re prescribed for MULTIPLE conditions. Most often for depression and anxiety. But often (and inappropriately), for back and arthritis pain, too. 

Of course, research shows they’re largely ineffective (and dangerous), particularly against pain. 

Let me explain… 

Antidepressants don’t kill pain 

Researchers at the University of Sydney analyzed published data from over 30 randomized, controlled trials featuring more than 5,000 adults with chronic pain. (This included lower back or neck pain, sciatica, or hip or knee arthritis.) 

Results showed that a class of antidepressants called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs, which include Atomoxetine and Duloxetine) reduced back pain after three months. But according to pain scales, the effect was clinically insignificant compared to placebo.   

These drugs had a slightly stronger effect in the case of osteoarthritis. But they 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 Amitriptyline) 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 next 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.  

Not to mention, recent studies have shown that when these two drugs are combined, the risk of brain bleeds increased 1.5 times, often within 30 days. (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 NEEDS to be a significant research-supported benefit.  

But that’s just 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 the list doesn’t end there.  

I outline additional approaches 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. (