A new animal study is suggesting that the use of antidepressant medications like Paxil or Effexor (SSRIs) may impair a patient’s ability to extinguish fear. The study also found that antidepressants may impair a patient’s ability to learn. The results of the study were published in Biological Psychiatry.
SSRIs like Paxil and Effexor are commonly used as a treatment for depression and anxiety; however, it is not clear what the drugs’ affects really are on the memory and learning processes. A previous study conducted by Nesha Burghardt, then a graduate student at New York University, and her colleagues was able to show that when animal subjects are exposed to SSRIs long-term, it can actually impair a rat’s ability to extinguish fear and learning.
“This impairment may have important consequences clinically, since extinction-based exposure therapy is often used to treat anxiety disorders and antidepressants are often administered simultaneously,” said Burghardt. “Based on our work, medication-induced impairments in extinction learning may actually disrupt the beneficial effects of exposure therapy.”
SSRIs have long been the subject of numerous studies that sought to test their efficacy and safety. Paxil and Effexor has been known to cause patients to suffer from violent and suicidal thoughts and behavior as well as led to birth defects in babies born to mothers who take the pills while pregnant. The birth defects linked to Paxil use include PPHN, spina bifida, neural tube defects, oral clefts and heart, lung and brain defects. These side effects have caused many doctors to stop prescribing the drugs to patients in favor of more traditional talk therapy.
Previous studies have also shown that drugs like Paxil work no better than placebos at curing depression symptoms. Even exercise has been touted as a better depression treatment than Paxil or Effexor. With more studies highlighting the dangers and uselessness of these drugs, it is a wonder that patients take these drugs at all, or that doctors continue to prescribe them.