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Antidepressants are commonly administered to individuals suffering from depression, but they are often not effective, and so physicians move to other treatment options such as antipsychotics.

A team of researchers at Columbia University came to this conclusion after conducting a study. The researchers found that depressed adults treated with newer antipsychotic therapies have a higher mortality risk than their counterparts treated with a second antidepressant. Many depressed patients are treated with antidepressants, but physicians switch to treatment using newer antipsychotics such as olanzapine, quetiapine, and aripiprazole when they do not work.

Antipsychotics have well-recognized and often serious adverse effects, including a more than 50 percent increased mortality risk in older adults with dementia,” stated Tobias Gerhard, the lead author for the study.

Scientists previously thought that the higher mortality risks only affected elderly adults whose treatment for depression include antipsychotics. Clinical trials conducted to provide data that would facilitate regulatory approval for the antipsychotics were previously too short of proving whether the high mortality also affected depressed non-elderly individuals.

The findings from the recent study showed that the mortality rate increased by roughly 45 percent. Dr.  Gerhard noted that the recent research findings indicate that physicians should exercise caution when prescribing antipsychotics to depression patients. There have previously been debates regarding the modest benefits of those treatments, as well as the potential health benefits associated with them.

Antipsychotics should only be prescribed when antidepressants prove inefficient

Most patients suffering from depression receive prescriptions for common antidepressants. However, the problem with antidepressants is that they take too long to start working. Most of them kick in four weeks after the patient starts his/her recommended dose. This might be too long for many patients considering that the negative effects of depression are still ongoing before the drugs kick in. This is why many patients, especially in the U.S, pursue antipsychotic treatment even before completing the previously recommended treatment.

Physicians should only recommend antipsychotics to patients that have demonstrated resistance to initially prescribed antidepressants, especially after the patient goes through the full dose. The physicians should also only prescribe antipsychotics after sufficient evidence indicates that antidepressants are not working for that particular patient.