Summary

  • Mental health medication manufacturers are not required to provide an incredient list for their medications.
  • Medications can and do contain components that may not align with patients needs, for ethical, religious or medical reasons.
  • Many of the most common mental health medications in Australia contain components derived from animals.

Take Home Message

Phychiatrist are taking note of vegans ethical requirements and are starting serious discussions about this in their field.

Paper's Stats

Table describing the content of proprietary mental health medications.
Part of the table from the paper.

NOTE: I have sat on this research paper for a couple of weeks now because I worry that it will influence some people’s use of life saving medication. I want to say up front this post is in NO WAY suggesting that anyone stop or change the way they take their mental health medication.

This post is NOT intended to make people feel bad for taking medication they need. I am writing this to point out that it’s encouraging to see some psychiatrists taking note of vegans ethical requirements and making it a serious point of discussion in their field.

I know first hand that mental health medication is very important and can mean the difference between life or death. If this post raises any concerns for you about your medication please consult your psychiatrist.

Now on to the research…

Currently companies in Australia (not sure about other places) don’t have to indicate where the components of their medication come from. This means that medication could contain components that some patients would prefer not to consume, for reasons such as ethics, religion or allergies. For psychiatrists this makes it very hard to identify and prescribe appropriate medications that align with their patient’s ethics and/or preferences.

A couple of doctors from Sydney, Australia, wanted to help psychiatrists and their vegan patients make more informed decision about the medications they are prescribed. To do this they compiled a list of the most common mental health medications used in Australia. They identified a common brand version of each medication and asked the manufacturers whether any components of the medication included animal products, animal derived content (e.g. cows milk), lactose or gluten.

Of 23 common medications that they inquired about 82.6% contained animal products, including gelatine, animal-derived magnesium stearate, glycerol and lactose. Although, it’s not all bad because for each of the medication categories (i.e. antidepressants, antipsychotics and mood stabilisers) there was at least one medicine that didn’t contain others individuals or their derivatives.

The fact that this paper was written indicates that the medical world is becoming more aware of vegan patient’s needs. It would be great if this list were expanded and made even more comprehensive, because as the list grows I am sure we would identify more vegan options. In fact, you could contact manufacturers yourself to help grow the list!

Again, please don’t make any decisions regarding your own medication needs based on this paper. If you have any concerns please discuss them with your doctor. Mental health medication is life saving and needs to be taken with careful consideration and the guidance of a health professional.

Title: Vego, no milk please, I’m allergic …; a table outlining the (in)appropriateness of common psychiatric medications for special dietary populations

Authors: Haldane E Begg and Michael J Murphy

Journal: Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry

First Published: October 30, 2016

URLhttp://anp.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/10/28/0004867416676896.long 

Paper Access

Free full-text access

Research Type

Peer-reviewed research

Accessing Research

If you can’t access one of the papers that is presented on VeganSci because it’s behind a paywall try emailing the corresponding author directly and asking nicely for a copy. Most people will be more than happy to share their research with you.