SSRI Litigation

SSRI Side Effects

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressant medications. However, SSRIs are often prescribed for conditions other than depression, including anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and certain phobias.1 Like any other drug, SSRIs are associated with certain side effects, though these medications also carry warnings about these risks.

Common side effects of SSRIs

About 10 percent of people taking SSRIs experience common side effects:

  • Changes in sex drive and performance
  • Blurred vision
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Agitation
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating

Less common side effects occur in about 1 percent of patients taking the medication:

  • Weight gain
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to urinate
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion

In most people, the common effects of the medication get better over time. The less common side effects should be addressed by a doctor.2

Risks of SSRI use

SSRIs can result in more serious adverse side effects. One is serotonin syndrome.2

Patients can experience other symptoms if too much serotonin builds up in the brain. This usually occurs when the medication is taken with another substance that can affect the person's serotonin levels:

  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Muscle twitching or shivering
  • Sweating
  • Diarrhea

If the syndrome is severe, the person can lose consciousness or experience seizures with a high fever and irregular heartbeat.

In elderly people, the medication can cause a drop in sodium levels, called hyponatremia. The symptoms mimic the other SSRI effects, but can lead to coma and death.2

SSRIs also carry an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. Studies have found that the use of SSRI medications doubles the risk of suicide in both children and adults, though the risk is still less than 5 percent.3

Signs of SSRI overdose

Overdoses of SSRI medications are rarely fatal when they are the only drug involved, and mild or moderate overdoses generally have no symptoms. However, taking greater amounts of the drug can result in tremors, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Fatal doses are indicated by seizures, loss of consciousness, and changes in heart rhythm.4

Discontinuation syndrome

SSRI withdrawal, or SSRI discontinuation syndrome, is caused when a patient's suddenly stops medication. Though withdrawal initially seems like the flu, people go on to experience:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach problems
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hallucinations involving sight or touch
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

About 20 percent of people who abruptly stop taking the medication will experience SSRI discontinuation syndrome.5

Interactions with other drugs

SSRI medications should not be taken with monoamine oxidase inhibitors because of a risk of toxicity.6 The toxicity is likely due to severe increases in blood pressure when combining the two drugs.7

Also, people taking SSRIs should not drink alcohol because of the combined effect on alertness and the risk of drowsiness. Drinking alcohol can also worsen the depression the medication is attempting to treat.8

If you or a loved one has suffered unexpected risks from using SSRIs as prescribed, a personal injury lawyer can review your case and determine if you have cause for compensation.

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