A new study suggests antidepressants are being used to treat conditions other than depression, Huffington Post reports.
As antidepressant prescriptions have significantly increased over the past 20 years, experts have had two main theories: a rise in depressions rates or over-diagnosis. This study provides another viable explanation for the increase.
The research team analyzed nine years of prescription data in Quebec, Canada and found that a significant amount of people taking antidepressants – 44 percent, in fact – are using them to treat separate conditions.
More than 100,000 antidepressant prescriptions for about 20,000 patients were analyzed by the research team for this study. The prescriptions analyzed were from 2006 to 2015 and are in prescription databases in Quebec.
Lead study author Jenna Wong, a PhD study at McGil University, and her team noted that 29 percent of antidepressant prescriptions were written for “off-label” use.
“Off-label” describes when a medicine is used outside of its original purpose or intent, such as treating a condition it wasn’t approved to treat or prescribing different doses.
Below are the eight most common alternate uses for antidepressants.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some antidepressants to treat anxiety disorders. Wong’s study found that 18.5 percent of antidepressants were prescribed to treat anxiety.
Insomnia and depression often go hand-in-hand. Those with insomnia are dramatically more likely to develop depression; those with depression are likely to suffer insomnia as a symptom. Wong’s study found that roughly 10 percent of antidepressants were prescribed to treat insomnia.
Antidepressants are often used to treat chronic pain because they help those suffering pain by dulling their perception of pain. Wong’s study found that six percent of antidepressants were prescribed to treat pain.
4. Panic Disorders
Panic disorders – including agoraphobia, social phobia, and widespread anxiety – manifest physically with symptoms such as an increased heart rate, trembling, chest pain, and shallow breathing. Antidepressants help panic disorders by alleviating symptoms and lessening the frequency of panic attacks. Wong’s study found that four percent of antidepressants were prescribed to treat panic disorders.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that can cause musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and sleep issues. Some antidepressants are FDA-approved to treat fibromyalgia because they help with the pain and fatigue. Wong’s study found that 1.5 percent of antidepressants were prescribed to treat fibromyalgia.
Tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes used to treat migraines. Experts theorize that this medication prevents migraines by altering chemical levels in the brain. Wong’s study found that 1.5 percent of antidepressants were prescribed for migraines.
7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Antidepressants have been proven to alleviate the symptoms of OCD and some are FDA-approved to treat the disorder. Wong’s study found that 1.1 percent of antidepressants were prescribed for migraines.
8. Menopause symptoms
Menopause is a major bodily change for a woman that includes a variety of uncomfortable symptoms. Antidepressants can help hot flashes or night sweats in particular. Wong’s study found that 0.8 percent of antidepressants were prescribed for menopause symptoms.
Although this study focuses on Quebec and Canada, it is likely not a localized phenomenon. Instead, the use of antidepressants for conditions other than depression is probably happening in many areas. Thus, an antidepressant prescription is not necessarily a sign for depression and should encourage people to continue to destigmatize the use of these medications.