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Anti-Depressants Linked to Diabetes: Correlation Does not Imply Causation

Posted Oct 05 2010 9:14pm

I got about a dozen emails from friends and readers recently, all with the same question: did you hear that anti-depressants cause diabetes?? Let’s keep it short and sweet and address that issue here:

A new study has found a connection between anti-depressant use and diabetes. This, of course, is fantastic news for the one-size fits all, “medications are bad” populace, as simply tweeting the article’s title will “support” their cause. And given that we are in an age where we can barely process the colossal amounts of new information that inundates us, the odds of most people reading the whole article are smaller than one might think (as evidenced by two of my friends ditching their Prozac immediately upon hearing this news).

If you read the entire piece, you see that the researchers are very cautious about what all of this means. Connection does not, in fact, suggest cause, far from it (remember the “diet soda causes obesity rage?” ). It simply means that two variables are related in some way. Could it be that those who are on anti-depressants are simply at the doctor’s more often, leading to an increased likelihood of diagnosis? Of course. Do depressed people sometimes struggle with self-care, leading to a poor life style that lends itself to Diabetes? Absolutely.

Unfortunately, you won’t hear much about this from the Tea Party version of anti-anti-depressant people. They’ll just run with the correlation to support their radical take on what is best for mental health.

So until we know more, a correlation needs to be treated as just that, no more, no less. Anything else is professionally derelict. Is it possible the anti-depressants are responsible? Indeed. But until that data comes in, don’t write checks you can’t cash. And stop reading just the highlights on your twitter feed. That’s just as bad as stopping Moby Dick after “Call me Ishmael.”

Related Post: Stop Trying “Really, Really Hard” to get off of Your Medication When it’s Working

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