Expanding use of antidepressants like duloxetine, venlafaxine, and sertraline has risen to become an issue across much of the world, especially in the United States. Long term use of antidepressants is surging in many parts of the world, including the United States, New Zealand, and Britain. The main purpose of antidepressants is to stabilize the imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain that are responsible for changes in mood behavior, and specifically the lack of serotonin in the brain. They ease depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and sleep problems; however, the rise of long term use has led many to struggle with withdrawal symptoms, which ultimately makes it harder for users to quit.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studied the use of antidepressants in 25 countries. Out of the 25 countries, the United States had a significantly higher rate of use in antidepressants. Ironically in South Korea, where antidepressant use is the lowest among the countries, the suicide rate is the highest. According to this data, it can be concluded that antidepressants are likely to decrease suicide rates and depression; however, the rise of drug usage and decrease in suicide rates has not shown any medical cause and effect relationship.
“In our progressive society, I have seen more people struggling to earn economic statuses, feeling worthlessness through social media, and experiencing depression. I think a multitude of reasons have led to an increased use of antidepressants,” Esther Park said. Esther Park, a 43-year-old mother of a son with autism, believes that long term use of antidepressants will ultimately harm the user. “People should not use drugs without clear symptoms of clinical depression and for that to happen, the government and drug manufacturers should spread the awareness of withdrawal symptoms.”
About 25 million adults in the United States have been prescribed antidepressants for at least two years, a significant increase since 2010. Furthermore, over the past decade, prescription rates have doubled in Britain and in New Zealand prescription rates have hit its historic high. Despite the rise of antidepressants, no answer or strategy has been given for people struggling to quit using drugs.
Short term use of antidepressants may be beneficial for patients struggling with depression, mood or anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. The process of prescribing antidepressants is simple, thus leading to an increase of long term use. The diagnosis of antidepressants may reveal impressive changes for patients; however, we have to recognize that drugs are addictive. It will be difficult to abandon a life which relies on antidepressants, once believed to be life savers.
Heiyeon Shin, Grade 12
Fairfax High School