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J Psychopharmacol. 2003 Dec;17(4):355-64.

Death and dependence: current controversies over the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

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University of Bristol, Psychopharmacology Unit, School of Medical Sciences, University Walk, Bristol, UK.


Recent years have seen a considerable media interest in the adverse effects of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This has led to claims that these antidepressants may lead to suicide and homicide and that they cause dependence or even addiction. Such claims have caused great concerns to many patients and have confused doctors in both primary care and psychiatric practice. In this article I review the basis of these claims and show that many seem to emerge from the misinterpretation of evidence and the use of imprecise definitions. Although the SSRIs are not free of problems they compare very favourably with other antidepressants and other classes of psychotropic drugs. There is no evidence they are addictive in the formal sense of leading to a drug dependence syndrome. Some suggestions on the way these issues can be more precisely defined and studied in future are given.

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