SSRIs: Do Popular Antidepressants Lead To Stroke?

By Staff Reporter on October 19, 2012 10:25 AM EDT

Zoloft
Zoloft antidepressants (Photo: Zoloft)

Researchers conducting a new study have discovered that common antidepressents known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may heighten an individual's risk of suffering from a stroke.

Common SSRIs medications include Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft. These drugs function by blocking the reuptake of a brain chemical known as serotonin, which controls a person's mood and emotional responses. SSRI are considered to be safer than older antidepressants which may possess multiple side effects.

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In an extensive research paper published on October 17, Dr. Daniel G. Hackam, an assistant professor of clinical pharmacology, clinical neurological sciences, and epidemiology at the Western University of London, Ontario, and a team of researchers conducted 16 studies with more than 500,000 participants. According to Hackam's report, people taking SSRIs were 50 percent more likely to have an intracranial hemorrhage and 40 percent more likely to have an intracerebral hemorrhage than individuals not taking antidepressants.

Despite the significant increase in risks for intracranial and intracerebral hemorrhages, it is the ischemic stroke, caused by blood clots blocking a blood vessel in the brain, that still accounts for 85 percent of all strokes. Diminutive in comparison, hemorrhagic strokes affect only 24.6 people out of 100,000 per year. Risks of hemorrhagic strokes triggered by antidepressants are one out of 10,000 people per year.

Dr. Hackam said, "Because these types of strokes are very rare, the actual increased risk for the average person is very low."

What's more, Hackam added, "Overall, these things should not deter anyone from taking an SSRI when it is needed."

While the overall stroke risk for a person taking SSRIs antidepressants is relatively low, Hackam recommends physicians to prescribe patients with pre-existing heart ailments with alternative treatments for depression instead.

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