Antidepressants are a multi-billion-dollar a year business, and there’s a good reason for that. Doctors, even psychiatrists, are taught to treat the symptoms of depression (as well as every other disease) with prescription drugs. The catch is that these drugs not only don’t cure depression, but in most cases, don’t even help it.
Okay, if you’re one of the people who is convinced that your antidepressant is helping you, please don’t come looking for me! I’m not saying they don’t help anyone-—just that they don’t help everyone, and the people they do help aren’t being helped a lot, and not for very long. Not to mention, there are usually significant side effects with these drugs.
But honestly, if antidepressants worked, why do they have these “helper” drugs? Abilify is a drug that is supposed to help your antidepressant work. Even the ads for antidepressants tell you that many people who are being treated for depression still have symptoms. What does that tell you?
Have you ever had a doctor test the neurotransmitters in your brain before prescribing antidepressants? Let me guess-—no, right? An article on CNN.com entitled “Antidepressants: Test shows which may be your best bet” (from MayoClinic.com) states that there is a genetic test that can show how your body MIGHT metabolize certain antidepressants, but it’s not an exact science. It doesn’t tell which drugs are likely to work for you. It only tells how your body might respond to some, but not all, types of antidepressants.
There are different chemicals that may be responsible for symptoms of depression. Different antidepressants work on different chemicals and in different ways. Your doctor will ask some questions about your medical history, what other medications you are taking, and what types of mental illnesses are in your family. If any of your relatives are being treated, what works for them might be more likely to work for you. However, the bottom line is that it’s an educated guess, at best.
Even the doctor will tell you that it will take a while for the drug to work, and that it might not work-—that it might take trying several different ones, or combinations of drugs, to find what works for you. What she won’t tell you is that it is just as likely to not help you at all as it is to help you a little bit.
The fact is that doctors are not sure exactly what causes depression, as it has different causes in different people. What might help your friend might not help you, and might even make your depression worse.
The theory that a low level of serotonin causes depression has been basically disproved by the fact that a new antidepressant in France which works the opposite way of the SSRI (the SSRE-—the “E” standing for “enhancer,” as opposed to the “I,” which stands for “inhibitor.”) is just as effective in treating depression as the SSRI, says Irving Kirsch. If raising serotonin levels is a good treatment for depression, why is lowering levels of serotonin just as effective?
According to Irving Kirsch, professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut and now a professor of psychology at the University of Hull in England, the answer may be in that a placebo is only slightly less effective than antidepressants. In an interview he did with the AARP Bulletin contained in an article entitled “Do Antidepressants Work?” Mr. Kirsch discussed his theory on the reason for the effectiveness of the placebo.
Mr. Kirsch stated that one of the symptoms of depression is hopelessness, and the act of taking the placebo gives the patient hope. Therefore, taking the SSRI, the SSRE, any of the other myriad antidepressants, or a sugar pill may be equally as effective.
According to studies, antidepressants seem to be more effective in patients with major depressive disorder as opposed to dysthymia, a milder form of depression. In a study published in the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), the conclusion states that the effectiveness of antidepressants “may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms” of depression.
For bipolar depression, antidepressants can be not only ineffective in relieving symptoms of depression, but they might also push the patient into mania. Bipolar disorder should not be treated with an antidepressant alone. If the doctor feels the antidepressant is needed, a mood stabilizer should also be prescribed. For many, the mood stabilizer alone works better.
Studies have shown that talk therapy, a.k.a. psychotherapy, is just as effective as the use of antidepressants, and has a long-lasting effect, whereas when you stop taking antidepressants, you’re no better off than when you started.
I am not trying to tell anyone to stop taking their antidepressants, and to the contrary, I would advise anyone who is taking them to first contact her doctor before making any changes at all. Antidepressants can be addictive, and discontinuing their use “cold turkey” can be dangerous.
My point is that there are millions of people who are taking drugs which are not helping them, while the drug company owners and stockholders are laughing their way to the bank. (I’m betting they aren’t taking antidepressants!) If you don’t believe me, look at the commercials for antidepressants. They’re telling you to ask your doctor for them!
There are many causes of depression, some of which can be alleviated with some work on your part. Get your thyroid checked and get some exercise and sunshine! Eliminate sugar, alcohol and caffeine from your diet. Make sure you’re getting your vitamin C and B vitamins, and get plenty of fish oil. Get tested for allergies and hypoglycemia. If you can determine the cause of your depression, you might be able to alleviate your symptoms, thereby eliminating your “need” for antidepressants.
There are some people who might be helped by antidepressants for a period of time. However, according the studies, most of you might just as well be eating chocolate. At least, if you’re eating dark chocolate, you’re getting some antioxidants and a nice rush of “love chemicals.”
Just keep an open mind about the use of antidepressants or any drugs. You might have a chemical imbalance that a drug may help, but none of us has a “drug deficiency.” It’s always better to find the root of the problem and deal with it than to simply try to treat the symptoms.
“Antidepressant Drug Effects and Depression Severity” JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). Jama.ama-assn.org. 2010.
(Jay C. Fournier, MA; Robert J. DeRubeis, PhD; Steven D. Hollon, PhD; Sona Dimidjian, PhD; Jay D. Amsterdam, MD; Richard C. Shelton, MD; Jan Fawcett, MD)
“Antidepressants: Test shows which may be your best bet” CNN.com from MayoClinic.com. 2006.
“Do Antidepressants Work?” Peter Jaret. AARP Bulletin. 2010.