More Americans are taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and pain medications for an extended period of time. They’re some of the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in the United States today, and they’re often prescribed for long-term use. For example, about one in 10 Americans takes an antidepressant. Despite how popular they are, we’re only just starting to understand the long-term effects of these types of drugs.
Anyone taking these medications should consider the effects of long-term use and perhaps consider natural alternatives. Heally’s functional medicine doctors can help provide a holistic path to treat the root cause of these types of health issues. All you have to do is sign up to book your first telehealth appointment. While holistic remedies may be recommended, it’s important to consult with a physician before discontinuing any medication.
Long-Term Effects of Antidepressants
Antidepressants can come in several forms, including tricyclics (TCAs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Depression typically occurs due to problems with the brain’s neurotransmitters, most commonly serotonin, dopamine, or norepinephrine. These types of drugs work by changing how your neurotransmitters function. However, each neurotransmitter in your brain has multiple jobs, and while increasing the availability of neurotransmitters might improve depressive symptoms and alleviate neuropathic pain, it can also lead to other unwanted effects.
Research from the Patient Preference and Adherence medical journal looked at these long-term side effects. They found that 30% of patients still had depressive symptoms while using the medications, and many complained of common side effects, including:
Feeling numb emotionally
It’s also worth noting that some said they never would have started taking the antidepressants at all if they’d known about the side effects and withdrawal risk.
Long-Term Effects of Anti-Anxiety Medications
Anti-anxiety medications, most commonly benzodiazepines, are typically prescribed to suppress general mood issues or sedate patients who struggle with insomnia. Benzodiazepines work by altering the neurons that trigger anxiety and stress.
Unfortunately, these medications are some of the most dangerous. According to a 2010 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry report, patients who use these medications have a 36% increased risk of mortality.
While anti-anxiety medications can be extremely valuable when used conservatively in dangerous situations where a patient needs to be taken out of harm’s way, their long-term use can increase risk to life.
When used for a long period of time, side effects can include:
What’s more, 30% of drug overdose deaths can be attributed to benzodiazepine use, so the risk of abuse and overdose should be seriously considered.
Long-Term Effects of Pain Medications
We’re in the midst of an opioid crisis, where more than 232,000 people have lost their lives to a prescription opioid overdose from 1999 to 2018. Doctors are quick to prescribe opioids for the long-term management of chronic pain, but this can and will put your life at risk.
While overdose death is the most dangerous long-term effect of opioid use, research indicates that this type of medication can also adversely affect your:
Central nervous system
The higher the dose, the greater the risk of health problems. When it comes to opioids, it’s recommended that patients take time to weigh the full spectrum of medical risks against the benefits of their use.
Natural Alternatives to Antidepressants, Anti-Anxiety Medications, and Pain Medications
It’s clear that taking antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and pain medications over the long term can come with significant health risks due to adverse long-term effects.
Consider natural remedies for mild symptoms instead. There’s no clear magic bullet natural treatment for mood disorders and chronic pain. However, using a combination of natural therapies can help reduce and manage your symptoms without long-term health risks.
A good night’s sleep can do wonders for your mind and body. It can also lower your reactivity to stressful situations, which can help reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. To get a better night’s sleep, avoid eating right before going to bed, turn off all electronics, and create a soothing bedtime routine.
Exercise is an excellent coping mechanism that can reduce stress and anxiety, lift your mood, and even reduce some symptoms of chronic pain. Try tai chi or meditation to calm the center’s brain activity or acupuncture to help rebalance your mind and spirit.
Everything in your body is connected, and a healthy diet can have a domino effect to improve your health in a variety of ways. For example, eating a healthy diet promotes a healthy digestive tract, which is where the majority of neurotransmitters are made. Add more fruits, vegetables, and legumes to your diet
Supplements like vitamin B6, glycine, and magnesium can also help improve neurotransmitter production, making them excellent options for patients with depression.
Studies show that performing activities outdoors surrounded by nature can reduce levels of stress hormones. Light activity is also great for the body, which can reduce chronic pain symptoms over time.
Go for a walk, try a walking trail, or pick up gardening as your next hobby. You might find these activities therapeutic.
A thoughtful synergy of natural treatments can help your brain and body heal.
CBD and Cannabis
Medical cannabis is an approved natural treatment for depression, anxiety, and chronic pain in many states. The endocannabinoid system is involved in many bodily processes, including pain, mood, stress, and sleep. This makes CBD and cannabis effective candidates for treatment.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to get a medical marijuana card to treat your symptoms with cannabis without the long-term risks of pharmaceuticals.
If medical cannabis isn’t yet legal in your state, try CBD instead. It has many of the same medicinal properties as cannabis but it’s legal nationwide. Heally can deliver a wide variety of CBD products right to your door, including gummies, tinctures, and pain lotions.