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Antidepressants

Depression can be debilitating, and antidepressants help curb the serious side effects associated with the condition. They can balance out the chemical levels in the brain to help increase mood and allow people to function normally despite their clinical depression. Unfortunately, they can also “over balance” and create some extremely undesirable side effects, including suicidal thoughts and actions.

When these types of side effects occur, it may be in part due to a poor doctor recommendation to use the drug, or it could be due to the drug itself. Everyone reacts differently to antidepressants, so it may be difficult to pinpoint why you have reacted negatively to a certain medication. If you have any adverse reaction, however, you may have a legal claim based on either medical malpractice or a drug defect claim. The only way to know for sure is to speak with an experienced attorney who can go through your options with you.

Preference for SSRIs Among Doctors

Most antidepressants are considered selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). They increase the amount of serotonin in the brain; serotonin is sometimes referred to as the “feel good” hormone in the brain. A few SSRIs that are currently on the market include:

  • Zoloft®
  • Celexa®
  • Serzone®
  • Symbyax®
  • Lexapro®
  • Prozac®
  • Paxil®
  • Effexor®
  • Fluvoxamine®

There are additional SSRIs as well. Some antidepressants are not SSRIs, including Wellbutrin®, Oleptro®, and Vivactil®. These antidepressants tend to have more side effects than SSRIs, which makes SSRIs the popular choice among most doctors.

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Serotonin Syndrome

SSRIs have several serious side effects, one of which is the potential for serotonin syndrome. This condition occurs when you have too much serotonin in the brain. Severe serotonin syndrome may be fatal if it is not treated in time. Symptoms of the condition can appear within several hours. They usually occur when you have just started taking a new drug or your drug dose has been altered in some way.

If you have any of the following signs or symptoms of serotonin syndrome, you should call your doctor right away.

  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Heavy sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Shivering
  • Goosebumps
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of muscle coordination

You should seek immediate medical attention if you have signs of severe serotonin syndrome.

  • Seizures
  • High fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness

Again, if you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of severe serotonin syndrome, go to the emergency room immediately. This condition can be fatal. The FDA issued its first warning regarding serotonin syndrome in 2006. Since that time, doctors have been much more cognizant of overprescribing SSRIs, but it does still occasionally occur.

Antidepressants and Mothers

In 2006, the FDA announced that you should not take SSRIs while you are pregnant. It found that if a woman takes an antidepressant while pregnant, there is an increased likelihood that her child will develop a rare heart and lung condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). This condition essentially means that the baby does not adapt to breathing normally outside of the womb. The condition can result in organ damage, brain damage, and death.

In 2011, however, the FDA determined that the results of several studies have provided conflicting results. It concluded that doctors should not alter their current practices regarding treating depression in pregnant women. In their announcement, the FDA essentially concluded that they are leaving the decision of how to treat women with depression during pregnancy up to the individual doctor.

Despite the FDA’s confusing warnings, you may still have a legal claim if you took an SSRI during your pregnancy and your baby developed PPHN or another health condition. The experienced drug claims attorneys at Hughes and Coleman will be able to discuss your legal rights with you.

SSRIs and Suicidal Thoughts

SSRI use has also been linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts for some patients. The risk is particularly high for children, teens, and young adults. The rates are somewhat alarming, and the prescription rates decreased after the FDA issued a warning regarding suicidal thoughts in the early 2000s.

If you have suicidal thoughts, it is more likely to be in the first two months that you are taking the drug. This is likely because your body is still adjusting to the drug. Monitoring is especially important for young adults, children, and teens during this stage.

Coming off your SSRI suddenly is not a good idea. That means that even if you are having suicidal thoughts, you should talk to your doctor before stopping the drug completely. The body becomes accustomed to the drug and may not be able to function normally without it. Withdrawal symptoms that resemble flu-like symptoms, sleep and sensory disturbances, and gastrointestinal issues are common. Emotional issues like instability and anxiety can also result from coming off the medication too quickly.

Antidepressant Lawsuits

If you or a loved one has experienced negative side effects due to your antidepressant, you may have legal options. Most antidepressant lawsuits focus on the manufacturer’s failure to warn patients of the many side effects that are associated with antidepressants. Call 800-800-4600 to find out more.

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