Long-term use of common drug taken by millions of Brits linked to heart disease

Researchers however say people should not unilaterally go off their meds in light of these findings.

Long-term use of common drug taken by millions of Brits linked to heart disease
Long-term use of common drug taken by millions of Brits linked to heart disease

People who are prescribed antidepressants over a long-term could increase their risk of developing heart disease. A new study suggests that taking the drugs to treat and manage various mental health conditions over a ten-year period doubles risk of heart disease.

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‘Concerning associations’

A team of researchers from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Mental Health sought to investigate the link between long-term antidepressant use and the onset of six health problems including coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure, according to a release published on the University’s website.

To do this, they studied data of over 222,000 people aged 40-69 from the UK’s Biobank. In the study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open, the team found compared data on people taking antidepressants with those not on the drugs. Over a ten-year period, those on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – the most commonly prescribed drug – had 34% heightened risk of heart disease and 73% chance of dying from any cause. These risks doubled for people using other antidepressants.

Antidepressants, and especially SSRIs, may have a good safety profile in the short term, but are associated with adverse outcomes in the long term. This is important because most of the substantial increase in prescribing in the past 20 or more years is in long-term repeat prescribing.
Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

Don’t go off your meds

The researchers have cautioned against people going off their prescribed medications in light of the findings. They added that more research is needed to establish if the conclusions drawn are due to the drugs or other factors. However, they say clinicians should be circumspect in how often they prescribe these drugs to people. Dr Narinder Bansal, the study’s lead author said:

Meanwhile, our message for clinicians is that prescribing of antidepressants in the long term may not be harm-free. We hope that this study will help doctors and patients have more informed conversations when weighing up the potential risks and benefits of treatments for depression.

Antidepressants are one of the most widely prescribed drugs in England with over 70 million prescriptions dispensed in 2018.

Sources Used:

The Sun: Taking antidepressants long-term ‘increases your risk of killer condition’

University of Bristol: Adverse health outcomes associated with long-term antidepressant use

Evening Standard: Long-term antidepressant use ‘may increase risk of heart disease’

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