New research shows that popular antidepressants are linked to an increased risk of some rare types of stroke that are caused by bleeding in the brain.
The study, published this week in the journal Neurology, looked at 16 studies with more than 500,000 patients and found that people taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were 50%more likely to have an intracranial hemorrhage and 40% more likely to have an intracerebral hemorrhage than those not taking antidepressants. SSRIs are the most commonly used type of antidepressants.
However, the study’s author stated that the rarity of these types of stroke mean the findings are not cause for alarm or a change in medication. These types of stroke are only estimated to occur in 24.6 per 100,000 people per year, meaning SSRIs would increase the risk by one stroke per 10,000 people per year.
“Because these types of strokes are very rare, the actual increased risk for the average person is very low,” said Dr. Daniel Hackam, author of the study and fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada at Western University. “Overall, these results should not deter anyone from taking an SSRI when it is needed.
“In general these drugs are safe, and obviously there are risks to having depression go untreated. But doctors might consider other types of antidepressants for people who already have risk factors for these types of strokes, such as those taking blood thinners, people who have had similar strokes already, or those with severe alcohol abuse.”