Post-SSRI sexual dysfunction
“Further evidence of long-lasting changes associated with antidepressants, in this case, comes from the emerging literature on post-SSRI sexual dysfunction. It is well established that SSRIs commonly impair sexual function while they are being taken, but there are mounting reports of persistence of some difficulties following cessation of the drugs for months and sometimes years.11 Persistent sexual impairment is also demonstrated in male rats treated with SSRIs during adolescence.12 13 It is difficult to estimate the prevalence of persistent sexual dysfunction given the currently limited data, but one survey identified that 34% of respondents showed evidence of possibly having the condition, and 4.3% showed a high probability of having it.14 I have heard some psychiatrists protest that post-SSRI sexual dysfunction is ‘psychological’ and simply a re-emergent symptom of an underlying depression, but the fact that it is consistent with known acute effects of SSRIs and with animal research into lasting effects makes it difficult to uphold this position. It seems more likely that it is another example of a long-lasting, and possibly occasionally permanent, change to normal bodily functions induced by some prescribed psychiatric drugs.
Historically, the medical community has been slow to appreciate the extent to which drugs can interfere with and alter normal brain and body functions in both predictable and unpredictable ways. It took psychiatrists a long time to acknowledge that tardive dyskinesia was caused by neuroleptics, and they tried hard to pin it on something else (schizophrenia).1 It has taken three decades for the withdrawal effects of antidepressants to be taken seriously. The prescription opioid epidemic in the United States continues despite mounting evidence that the drugs can exacerbate chronic pain rather than relieve it.2“
The recent furor caused by publication of evidence about the serious nature of antidepressantwithdrawal made me reflect on the lasting damage that can sometime be done by prescription drugs, and how it has often taken concerted efforts by users of these drugs to bring these effects to public attention.