Antidepressants, mood stabilizers or newer generation anti-psychotics can increase a person's weight, a Canadian researcher said.
Dr. David Lau, chairman of the diabetes and endocrine research group at the University of Calgary and president of Obesity Canada said that psychiatric drug-related weight gain "is a huge problem...you can see patients gaining 10, 20, 30, 40 pounds."
Dr. Lau however made it very clear that not everyone taking antidepressants, mood stabilizers or newer generation antipsychotics would gain weight. In fact, he added that new antipsychotics, so-called "atypical antipsychotics" have been "tremendous in terms of bringing back the functionality of people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and depression."
Dr.Lau listed the anti-psychotics most likely to be associated with weight gain as: Clozaril, or clozapine; Zyprexa, Seroquel or quetiapine; Risperdal, or risperidone; Modecate or chlorpromazine; fluphenazine and Haldol or haloperidol.
He explained further research was needed to establish the exact cause for weight. According to him, "some may stimulate appetite, while others may unmask a person's genetic propensity to gain weight, or cause the body to become resistant to insulin."
Harvard University psychologist Paula Caplan traces a vicious cycle, where patients who experience weight gain after taking psychotropic drugs are reluctant to discontinue their use. They would rather cut down on fast foods and think of exercising more, than discontinuing their use.
Writing in a recent article in the magazine New Scientist, Caplan says there have been new revelations that some antidepressants work merely as a placebo for all except the most severe cases of depression. According to her these "make the potential scale of the side effects more worrying than ever."
She believes the widespread use of psychiatric medications among adults and children could probably be making the obesity epidemic worse.
Her article observes that obesity among teens and younger children has risen over the past 10 to 15 years. There has been a five-fold increase in prescriptions of anti-psychotic drugs to those age groups, and "children taking these drugs are even more likely to gain weight than adults are," she writes.
Caplan concedes that too much fast food, large sized portions and the increasingly sedentary lifestyles of current times are all legitimate culprits in the rising tide of obesity.
"But I'm thinking, there's this glaring omission. It's like the elephant in the living room. No one is talking about (psychiatric drugs) as a source," she says, adding, "We don't know how much of this increase in obesity is due to the drugs, but shouldn't somebody be finding out?"
David Cohen, a professor in the College of Social Work, Justice and Public Affairs at Florida International University observes that more children than ever before are on antipsychotics. It is still a small number though, according to him.
"There has been a huge marketing push and a huge increase in diagnoses that would call for these drugs among children,' he said, adding, "We have huge increases in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and that calls mostly for antipsychotics and anticonvulsants -- so-called mood stabilizers that are also associated with weight gain."