Antidepressants have often been at the centre of controversial discussions over how effective they are when it comes to dealing with depression. Recently, the tone of the chat has changed and there are now concerns that not only do the drugs not help with depression but they have some horrific side-effects. One of those side-effects being turning users into gambling addicts.
The Great Anti Depression Myth
A debate has raged on for years about the genuine effectiveness of antidepressants when dealing with individuals that suffer from depression. That hasn’t stopped millions of doses being prescribed each day though.
Some users swear by them. Other users claim they have no impact. A minority even suggest they do more harm than good.
One study that was highly publicized was led by Professor Irving Kirsch from the University of Hull in partnership with colleagues from the US and Canada as well as the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. The aim of the study was to analyze the effects of antidepressants on differing severities of depression.
Results of the study, that covered a number of antidepressants including fluoxetine (Prozac), nefazodone (Serzone), venlafaxine (Effexor), paroxetine (Seroxat), and placebo pills, showed that the antidepressants only appeared to work on severe forms of depression.
Are Negative Side-Effects the Real Issue?
The direction of controversy is now turning from whether antidepressants are effective in dealing with depression or not to what the negative side-effects are.
A number of worrying cases are now confirming that certain individuals on antidepressants will display random urges to engage in neagtive behavior.
One tear-jerking case came in the form of Denise Miley, from Maple Grove, Minnesota in the US. She was prescribed a dose of the anti-depressant aripiprazole (Abilify) for depression. At the time it was already known that the drug had an impact on the dopamine system within the brain. Interestingly, this is the part of the brain that holds control over an individual’s urge to seek rewards from different activities.
Within six months of starting her medication, Denise had become a full-blown gambling addict.
To the outside world she was a happy wife with a loving husband and beautiful kids. The reality was that she had resorted to cycling to the local casino after dropping her kids off at school to get her gambling fix.
Co-Director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, Dr Timothy Fong stated, “What that woman described is very eerily similar to a lot of the other patients that we see, where they just wake up and have this urge or hunger and desire to do a behavior.”
Disconcertingly, a link between Abilify and the potential development of addiction had already been identified by European regulators back in 2012.
Warning labels had been placed on packs of Abilify to make patients aware of the risks. Unfortunately, this was not even considered in the US until last year.
Further Examples of Antidepressants Triggering Gambling Addiction
There are a number of other individuals that have experienced the lure of gambling addiction when on a course of antidepressants . It appears to be a growing problem and one that more people are now becoming more aware.
Tim Hillier, a financial analyst, was on Efexor to combat his severe OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Three months into the medication he inexplicably placed an $80,000 bet on a first round tennis match at Wimbledon between Sam Stosur and Arantxa Rus.
He said “I was walking the streets just thinking ‘fuck, have I actually placed this bet?’,” Tim added. “Have I actually wagered all this money on a single tennis match?”.
An Australian man identified only as “Paul” also experienced an addiction to gambling after three years on Efexor. He decided to do some research and set about contacting the manufacturer of the drug, Pfizer.
“I contacted Pfizer and I asked if they knew that Efexor could possibly cause gambling and sexual misconduct and they responded with, ‘Oh yes we knew that, 0.8% of people will get that’,” Paul said.
The Food and Drug Administration confirmed last year that there is a proven link between specific antidepressants that affect dopamine activity in the brain and an addiction to gambling.
Sadly, an addiction to gambling is not the only potential side-effect with an addiction to binge-eating, shopping, and even sex also listed.
In a positive step, warnings on packs of antidepressants now state that there is a risk of developing a gambling addiction when taking the medication. This was previous simply labelled as “uninhibited behaviour”. The new warning labels eliminate any confusion that existed.
It is still extremely worrying that drugs are so readily available to millions of people when the side-effects can be so terrible. It is a move in the right direction that pharmaceutical firms are addressing the issues head on. However, patients are rightly worried about the fact that research has so far failed to deliver an alternative form of anti-depressant that does not risk turning the users into gambling addicts.