Antidepressants are a “quick fix” for shaking the blues. But do they solve the problem? Apparently not. Plus, if you’re taking these drugs, you’re nearly doubling your risk for a relapse of major depression.
That, of course, is not what the doctors who prescribe the medications say. They tell you drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil will give you a brighter outlook and a better life.
But some studies found that the drugs perform no better than a placebo. And now there’s research that shows they can make your condition even worse. You go from depression to drugs to deeper depression… and then stronger drugs.
What’s more, some researchers believe that depression has a physiological purpose in today’s complex world. They say it prepares the body to deal with stress. Just like a fever helps the body fight infection.
That theory is causing quite a stir in the psychology community. But it could lead to less-toxic drugs and better treatments for people suffering from depression.
Dr. Paul Anderson is the man behind the theory. He’s an evolutionary psychologist, as well as a behavioral ecologist and evolutionary biologist. He does his groundbreaking work at McMaster University in Ontario. And it’s been getting him lots of press in The New York Times and other major publications.
A Blue Outlook
Depression appears to be linked to an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. These include serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. They affect the way you think, behave, and feel.
Dr. Anderson explains that antidepressants work by altering the levels of the neurotransmitters. But he believes that, in doing so, they disrupt the body’s natural regulatory process. So when you stop taking the drug, the brain overcorrects and triggers deeper depression.
To test this theory, Dr. Anderson and his team did a meta-analysis of dozens of studies on the risk of relapse when patients stop taking antidepressants. The results were published in Frontiers of Psychology.
They looked at three groups of patients. Group 1 started on antidepressants then switched to placebos. Group 2 received only placebos. And Group 3 received only the drugs. Those who were given only placebos. And those who were given only the drugs. They found that, on average, patients who took the drugs and then stopped had a 42% risk of relapse. That compared to only a 25% risk for those who never took the drugs.
“Our results suggest that when you try to go off the drugs, depression will bounce back,” Dr. Andrews says. “This can leave people stuck in a cycle where they need to keep taking antidepressants to prevent a return of symptoms.”
These findings add to a great deal of research that indicates the drugs are ineffective. In 1998, for example, the University of Connecticut looked at the results of studies that involved about 3,000 depressed patients. They found that patients taking a placebo improved about 75% as often as those on a drug.
Not only do the drugs not work, they cause side effects in men that can lead to even more depression. These include problems getting an erection, sexual dysfunction, decreased libido, and lack of orgasm.
So why are antidepressants so popular? Because they are being pushed by an $11 billion industry. And many patients are led to believe that they are the only way out of depression.
In fact, a new study done by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found a big increase in prescriptions for people with no psychiatric diagnosis. Currently about 8.9% of the US population is taking antidepressant drugs.
Dr. Ramin Mojtabai led the study. He’s an associate professor with the school’s Department of Mental Health. And he has been down this road before. He led an earlier study that was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. It examined the connection between increased antidepressant use and suicidal thoughts.
Dr. Mojtabai says, “To the extent that antidepressants are being prescribed for use not supported by clinical evidence, there may be a need to improve providers’ prescribing practices…”
The evidence against these drugs continues to mount. Other studies have found them to be ineffective for dementia patients. They’ve also been linked to autism in children.
Before you make any changes in your medication, be sure to consult your doctor. But if you’re suffering from depression, you need to know that there are all-natural alternatives that you can turn to. We’ve already told you about one of them – a spice that cuts depression by 25%.
One of the most popular natural remedies for depression is St. John’s wort. A meta-analysis review of studies on St. John’s wort revealed a “significant advantage” compared to placebos. And compared to antidepressant drugs, it showed better results. It’s actually the leading treatment for depression in Germany. And it’s gaining popularity in the US.
Clinical trials have used doses of 300mg of St. John’s wort taken three times daily. A European study of 3,250 people found only minimal adverse effects in just 2.4% of them. So it is a safe alternative. And it is widely available as a supplement. You can find it online or at health food stores.
To your best health,
Managing Editor, NHD “Health Watch”