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Antidepressants Make Us Less Likely to Harm Others

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Odds are, if you pop antidepressants that elevate your serotonin levels, you are less willing to hurt or punish other people, even if it's for the “greater good.”

As reported in the New Scientist, a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge recently tested the impact of antidepressants on moral judgments.

Specifically, the scientists presented 24 volunteers with a moral dilemma while they were under the influence of the antidepressant citalopram, which increases brain serotonin levels.

As the New Scientist summarizes:

“The participants given citalopram were about 10 per cent less willing to inflict harm on someone in order to benefit others compared with those given a placebo.

The volunteers also played a game in which they were asked to accept or decline another player's offer of a share of a sum of money. If they accepted the offer, each player kept their share. If they refused, both players were left empty-handed.

People with raised levels of serotonin were more likely to accept a stingy offer, rather than punishing the other player's greed by refusing it.”

Studying the effects of antidepressants on social behavior and moral judgment is a worthwhile investigation given the popularity of these drugs: according to IMS Heath, sales of antidepressants in 2009 totaled $9.9 billion in a mostly generic dominated market.

Big players include Forest Laboratories’ (FRX) Lexapro and Eli Lilly’s (LLY) Cymbalta.
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