Debates over the benefits vis-a-vis the harm that long-term use of antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs can cause have raged on for a long time.

Now an expert warns against the ill-effects of these drugs in the long run, claiming that the harm caused has been down played and the supposed benefits were exaggerated.

Peter Gotzsche, a professor at the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Denmark, in his article entitled "Does long term use of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good?" in The British Medical Journal (BMJ) claims that treatments that deploy psychiatric drugs should only be "exclusively" used in "acute" situations.

Gotzsche also goes on to assert that these medicines are accountable for the deaths of over 500,000 people who are 65 years or older every year in Western countries. This number includes deaths that occur due to suicides. Gotzsche also reveals that the benefits of these drugs are minimal when compared to their side effects.

"Their benefits would need to be colossal to justify this (sic deaths), but they are minimal," wrote Gotzsche.

Per Gotzsche, the prejudiced and faulty drug trials that are funded by the industry has successfully managed to over hype the benefits and down played the resulting deaths, which occur due to long-term consumption of anti-depressants, antipsychotics and tranquilizers. The evaluation of the effects of the drugs by these trials is not accurate according to him.

He reveals that consumption of three basic types of drugs namely benzodiazepines antipsychotics, and similar drugs, as well as antidepressants resulted in 3,693 deaths in Denmark each year. This figure (when scaled up) is equivalent to 539,000 deaths in the European Union and the United States combined.

Gotzsche advocates that since these drugs lack in any benefits, in his opinion people should stop using all types of psychotropic drugs. People should only use a small portion of the benzodiazepines and antipsychotics compared to their current use.

The Danish professor also believes that there was a need for withdrawal clinics to aid people who are dependent on such drugs.

However, many professors call Gotzsche's assertions dangerous and misleading.

The study has been published on May 12 in The BMJ.

Photo: Steve Snodgrass | Flickr

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