SSRIs are the third most commonly prescribed medication with researchers saying that between 8 to 10 percent of the United States population is taking an SSRI. The most common are Fluoxetine (Prozac), Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Paroxetine (Paxil), and Sertraline (Zoloft).
In an article in this month’s issue of Scientific American MIND, it discusses that the use of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). The use of SSRIs is broadening from not just treating mental illnesses but also for applications that are far reaching such as diabetic neuropathy, to deficits caused by stroke and premature ejaculation.
The FDA approved indications for these medications has expanded rapidly since the introduction of Prozac in December of 1987. In the beginning this class of medications was primarily for affective disorders like major depression/unipolar disorder. It soon expanded to include anxiety disorders like OCD, eating disorders and panic disorder. By 2005 they had also become approved for use in treating PTSD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, social phobia and social anxiety.
Fibromyalgia, neuropathic pain, migraines, arthritis and many other syndromes and symptoms have been either investigated or currently are under investigation for treatment by SSRIs.
You can even prescribe Prozac to an anxious dog or cat with separation anxiety.
SSRIs get a bad rap by the general public because there is the risk of suicidal ideation, especially in those who take it for existing depression or anxiety. They can also accidentally reveal someone diagnosed with depression as having bipolar disorder as SSRIs can trigger episodes of mania. All pharmaceuticals have the potential for bad side-effects but by far antidepressants have one of the worst reputations in modern medicine by the general public, but not by physicians.
It doesn’t help that the mechanism of antidepressants and similar psychotropic drugs is not always known. Viagra started out as a blood pressure medication and went on to become something much different – it seems that SSRIs are going in that same direction with physicians finding more and more indications for use.
Perhaps the image of SSRIs will improve as more uses are discovered, but I’m not going to hold my breath.