Do you know someone who takes antidepressants for chronic pain? It’s actually a pretty common practice.
But, a recent study has found that most antidepressants used for this purpose might not work as well as we thought.
The investigation looked at medications used for long-term pain and found that many of these drugs haven’t been studied thoroughly.
This means we aren’t sure how effective these drugs really are. The study also found that the risks of some of these drugs have not been fully understood.
Diving into the Details
This important study was published in a journal called the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
The researchers looked at 176 trials with nearly 30,000 patients. All these trials involved the use of antidepressants for treating chronic pain.
The drugs that were studied included amitriptyline, fluoxetine, citalopram, paroxetine, sertraline, and duloxetine. Out of all these drugs, only duloxetine showed strong evidence that it can help with pain.
It’s worth noting that chronic pain is a big problem around the world. According to data from the World Health Organization, a third of all people globally are living with chronic pain.
Many of these people are given antidepressants to help with their symptoms.
Should We Be Worried?
The lead author of the study, Professor Tamar Pincus from the University of Southampton, has voiced concerns.
She said that there is a serious lack of scientific proof about the long-term effectiveness and safety of any antidepressant for treating chronic pain.
The study didn’t find any strong evidence for the long-term effectiveness or safety of any antidepressant for chronic pain. This includes duloxetine, even though it seemed to help with pain relief in the short term.
One drug in particular, amitriptyline, is one of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for pain management around the world.
In England alone, about ten million prescriptions were given to patients in just the last 12 months. This is a worryingly high number considering the lack of evidence about its effectiveness and safety.
A Call to Action
This study took two years to complete and is the largest-ever assessment of antidepressants recommended by health bodies like the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S.
Gavin Stewart, a statistician from Newcastle University and a co-author of the study, has called on NICE and the FDA to update their guidelines to reflect the new evidence from the study.
He also asked funders to stop supporting small and flawed trials.
What Does This Mean for People with Chronic Pain?
The review found that duloxetine was the best medication out of all the ones studied.
It was found to be equally effective for different types of chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, musculoskeletal, and neuropathic pain conditions.
Milnacipran also helped to reduce pain, but there were not as many studies done on it compared to duloxetine.
However, it’s important to understand that just because we don’t have enough evidence for other antidepressants, it doesn’t mean they don’t work. We just need more high-quality studies to understand their effectiveness better.
If you’re currently taking an antidepressant for chronic pain, Professor Pincus advises that you should not stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first.
Going forward, the researchers recommend that patients and doctors should make decisions together when it comes to trying antidepressants for chronic pain.
They suggest starting with the drug for which there is the best evidence – in this case, duloxetine.
In conclusion, there’s a worrying lack of strong scientific evidence about the long-term effectiveness and safety of antidepressants for chronic pain.
The researchers have called on health bodies to update their guidelines and on funders to stop supporting small, flawed trials.
If you’re interested in learning more about pain management, you might want to read about how 1 in 3 people with chronic pain turn to marijuana for relief.
Another interesting study found that powerlifting could be a good exercise for people with chronic lower back pain.
For more on overall wellness, recent studies show that krill oil could improve muscle health in older people, and eating yogurt could help to prevent frailty in older people.
The study on antidepressants and chronic pain was published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.
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