Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Since We're on a Roll with the Daddies . . .

I thought I'd mention this:

I came across this blurb from the BBC, Antidepressants "may harm sperm", and I couldn't resist commenting. One because it is informative (sort of) and two, well, I don't know, it was just too interesting to pass up! (I trust that we're all grown up enough to use the word "sperm" without giggling . . . well, that's all right. If you laugh no one will know. You can pretend you were mature about this in the comments.)

Basically the article talks about a study that found that men who were on antidepressants had a higher rate of defective sperm. The sperm in question weren't lower in quantity, just quality. That is, men who take antidepressants have a higher percentage of sperm with damaged DNA.

Now, reel in your disaster-scenario-seeking brains (my brain isn't the only one that does that, right?), because that actually means very little. The study was so small that it in no way supports conclusions like "men who take antidepressants have lower fertility" or even "ALL men who take antidepressants have harmed sperm". I repeat: those conclusions cannot be drawn!

Here are few facts worth keeping in mind:

*The study only looked at Paxil and other antidepressants in that family. It didn't look at any other type of mood disorder meds.

*The study didn't examine if the damaged sperm actually had an effect on fertility.

*The study didn't look if the effects were reversed when the medication was stopped.

So what to take away from all this? I think the one thing this new information points to is that antidepressants do a lot of things scientists and doctors don't understand. We need more research behind the meds and more research into treatments for mood disorders and into mood disorders themselves.

Also, keep in mind that past studies have shown that people with high stress levels (like depressed people) do have lowered fertility rates. If you are worried about fertility talk to your doctor (obviously!), but an antidepressant probably isn't a big factor.

Other things to remember: When it comes to serious illnesses like depression, OCD, anxiety, or any mix thereof, it is probably safer to side with taking the medicine if you need it. Since the Surgeon General required the "black box" warning to be put on antidepressants prescribed to teens, teen prescriptions rates have gone down and teen suicide rates have gone up. Nobody wants a crazy dad. Or a dead dad. And that's just the facts.


Charlotte said...

I agree with the need to balance the clinical need of the person with the risk of the drug. Esp. when the former is high and the latter is low. But I really want a citation for your claim that teen suicide has increased since the black box warnings have come out. Everything I've read says teen suicide is continuing to trend downward over the past couple of decades, black box warnings or no. Although I'm sure you're right that # of scrips has declined...

jendoop said...

Great post! It is refreshing to see someone think through the logic of published studies. Often an idea is thrown out there with only implied ramifications, which the media accepts as fact. But if we look closely cause and effect is usually in question. In short, knee jerk reactions are usually wrong.

Misty Lynne said...

Did I ever tell you that I was seriously considering going into genetic counseling before my husband came along? This kind of stuff fascinates me!

At this point, I there is nothing to get overexcited about, but more research does need to be done. Our generation is facing more and more problems with fertility for so many different reasons. But don't neglect taking care of yourself in order to have a "better chance". Just expect that it might take longer.

Laura said...

Hey Char-- I got that teen suicide thing from a Newsweek article I read awhile ago. Here's the link:

According to the article a study in the Journal of American Psychiatry that found that SSRI prescriptions dropped 50% between 2003 and 2005. They then pulled out another study that said teen suicide rates jumped 18% between 2003 and 2004--the most recent year for which they have data. The article goes on with experts--one of which helped create the black box warning--saying that the black box should be pulled or modified.

Anyway, looking at the article now I'm not sure where they got the teen suicide stat. They don't directly cite it, unless it came from the same Journal.

I googled it and found a different stat for 04-05 at PsychCentral. the link:

They said that suicides went down that year, but then they link to another article that says the overall rates remain higher. It also says that while rates dropped for that one year, had the previous (1996-2002) downward trend continued teen suicide rates would be much lower than they are. This article also questions the unintended consequences of the black box warning.

Ah, statistics!

*P.S. You know I'm not good with HTML so sorry if the link don't work. I can email them to you if you want . . .