SSRI side effects possible even with off-label use
Most people assume antidepressants are prescribed only to people who suffer from depression. But sometimes they are prescribed for conditions other than those on the label, such as to treat bowel pain in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People who are given drugs for these off-label uses should be mindful of potential side effects that can be harmful not only to the user but especially dangerous to developing fetuses in pregnant women.
These “off-label” uses are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and drug companies are not allowed to market drugs for uses for which they have not been approved. However, doctors have the discretion to prescribe drugs for unapproved uses.
The most commonly prescribed of antidepressants are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. They include the brand name drugs Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, Celexa and Prozac. They work by increasing the serotonin levels, which are thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.
IBS is a disorder that leads to abdominal pain and cramping, change in bowel movements, and other symptoms. There are various medications to treat the condition, including ones designed to relieve diarrhea and constipation, and antibiotics. Some doctors prescribe SSRIs and other antidepressants to help relieve pain.
Serotonin is also an important transmitter for digestive functioning – 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is located in the gastrointestinal tract as opposed to just five percent in the brain. People with IBS have abnormal levels of serotonin in the GI tract because it isn’t being moved effectively by receptors in the intestines, which can cause bowel pain. Thus, SSRIs may help relieve bowel pain in IBS patients.
Patients who use SSRIs may be aware of the various side effects with SSRIs, but they should also use caution if they are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. Recent studies have linked SSRIs to serious birth defects in babies who were exposed to the antidepressants during pregnancy.
As always, women of child-bearing age should discuss the affect their medications may have on developing fetuses with their doctors, and should consider using reliable birth control if they choose to take the medication and remain sexually active.
Source: Penn Live