UP to four in five patients are being doled out antidepressants without knowing their side-effects, experts have warned.

Around 7.3 million people in England took the drugs in 2017/18 – one in six of the population.

 Most patients prescribed antidepressants do not know the potential side-effects, a new report by the charity Mind has warned

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Most patients prescribed antidepressants do not know the potential side-effects, a new report by the charity Mind has warnedCredit: Getty – Contributor

And millions more take medication for mental health conditions such as anxiety and insomnia.

One in four Brits will suffer a mental health problem at some point in their life – while suicide is the leading cause of death among young people, with a surge in young girls taking their own lives.

That’s why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign, a year ago – to raise awareness and remind everyone that we can all play a part in reversing the stigma, and helping others.

Now, a new survey carried out by charity Mind found the vast majority of patients were being left in the dark by their GP about potential side-effects.

Psychiatric pills can trigger impotence, mania, diabetes, bed wetting and suicidal feelings, Mind has warned.

In a poll of 12,000 people, the charity found just 21 per cent were definitely told about potential side-effects.

And more than half were unclear why they were being put on the drug.

One in three said they would have liked to the side-effects of their treatment to be explained in full.

The majority of GPs have done no psychiatric training despite four in ten patient appointments involving mental health issues.

‘I had no clue of the side effects’

 Michelle Lloyd, 34, from London has been on antidepressants since uni - she said she's never been warned of the side effects

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Michelle Lloyd, 34, from London has been on antidepressants since uni – she said she’s never been warned of the side effectsCredit: Michelle Lloyd/Mind

Michelle Lloyd, 34, from London was first prescribed the antidepressant fluoxetine – sold under the brand name Prozac – while she was at uni.

She said even to this day, no doctor has ever actually explained the side effects to her.

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“They were prescribed quickly with very little extra information about the side effects,” Michelle said.

They were prescribed quickly with very little extra information… I didn’t expect the medication to make me feel so bad

Michelle Lloyd

“It was a horrible time; I also felt very nauseous with headaches and completely lost my appetite.

“I didn’t expect the medication to make me feel so bad.”

For Michelle, that wasn’t the end to her side effects, she has also been plagued by feeling completely numb.

“Quite quickly, I went from being someone who was over-spilling with emotions to not feeling very much, and that’s quite scary,” the 34-year-old added.

“It’s not something I had been warned about.

“To this day I still haven’t ever had someone explain properly how and why they work.”

A doctor’s view

One doctor explained it can be hard to explain all the side effects to patients, during a typically short GP consultation.

Dr Seb Pillon, 35, from Bolton, said he describes antidepressants as a crutch, a “tool to help them make the necessary changes in their lives”.

“I think additional training would help make sure all newly qualified GPs are confident in supporting people with problems like depression and anxiety, ” Dr Seb added.

“It’s tough to provide a balance of facts to a patient who is anxious without scaring them off something which may help.

“I’d like to spend more time with people.”

He said he often directs patient’s to Mind to look up all the info, and then books another appointment to discuss any concerns at a later date.

Demand on the rise

Mind’s Director of External Relations, Sophie Corlett, said demand for psychiatric treatments is on the rise.

And called for better mental health training for GPs, so they can better support patients to make informed decisions.

She said: “Our research revealed that a worrying number of us are receiving life changing treatment without fully understanding what it involves. This has got to change.

WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS?

MIND warns there are a number of side-effects linked to different types of antidepressants.

But the charity adds: “Anyone thinking of starting or stopping their medication needs to talk to their GP so it can be taken or stopped safely and gradually.”

If you are worried go to see your GP.

1. Monoamine oxidase inhibitor antidepressants (MAOIs)

These drugs work to ease depression by affecting chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) used to communicate between brain cells.

Mind warns the side-effects of these drugs include:

  • decreased alertness
  • syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic homrone secretion (SIADH)
  • serotonin syndrome
  • diabetes
  • suicidal thoughts

2. SSRIs and SNRIs

Examples of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) include fluoxetine – sold as Prozac – and Sertraline.

They’re two classes of drug commonly used to treat depression.

Side effects include:

  • decreased alertness
  • sexual problems
  • diabetes
  • mania
  • suicidal feelings

3. Antidepressants – Tricyclic

Mind warns the side-effects of these drugs include:

  • tooth decay
  • hormone secretion
  • decreased alertness
  • suicidal feelings

4. Antipsychotics 

For example, drugs like clozapine or apiprazole.

Side-effects include:

  • bed wetting
  • blood disorders
  • body temp problems
  • eye problems
  • metabolic syndrome including weight gain
  • skin problems
  • sexual problems
  • suicidal feelings

5. Sleeping pills and minor tranquilisers

For example benzodiazepines, like Valium.

Side-effects include:

  • drowsiness
  • light headedness
  • unsteadiness
  • slurred speech
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • suicidal feelings

For more information visit Mind’s website here.

“With GPs often the first port of call for mental health support, it’s crucial they have the opportunity to get the training they need to support patients to have the information to make decisions about their treatment.

“Medication can be effective in managing symptoms of mental health problems, but not for everyone.

“It is critical people are told about potential adverse side effects, such as suicidal thoughts and self-harm, so they can make informed choices.”

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:


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