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The British Journal of Psychiatry
Year: 2009  |  Volume: 195  |  Issue: 3  |  Page No.: 202 - 210

Adverse reactions to antidepressants

R Uher, A Farmer, N Henigsberg, M Rietschel, O Mors, W Maier, D Kozel, J Hauser, D Souery, A Placentino, J Strohmaier, N Perroud, A Zobel, A Rajewska Rager, M. Z Dernovsek, E. R Larsen, P Kalember, C Giovannini, M Barreto, P McGuffin and K. J. Aitchison    

Abstract:

Background

Adverse drug reactions are important determinants of non-adherence to antidepressant treatment, but their assessment is complicated by overlap with depressive symptoms and lack of reliable self-report measures.

Aims

To evaluate a simple self-report measure and describe adverse reactions to antidepressants in a large sample.

Method

The newly developed self-report Antidepressant Side-Effect Checklist and the psychiatrist-rated UKU Side Effect Rating Scale were repeatedly administered to 811 adult participants with depression in a part-randomised multicentre open-label study comparing escitalopram and nortriptyline.

Results

There was good agreement between self-report and psychiatrists’ ratings. Most complaints listed as adverse reactions in people with depression were more common when they were medication-free rather than during their treatment with antidepressants. Dry mouth (74%), constipation (33%) and weight gain (15%) were associated with nortriptyline treatment. Diarrhoea (9%), insomnia (36%) and yawning (16%) were more common during treatment with escitalopram. Problems with urination and drowsiness predicted discontinuation of nortriptyline. Diarrhoea and decreased appetite predicted discontinuation of escitalopram.

Conclusions

Adverse reactions to antidepressants can be reliably assessed by self-report. Attention to specific adverse reactions may improve adherence to antidepressant treatment.

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