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Antidepressants offer no cure

Monday, August 14, 2006 | 2 comments

Today I bought the Scientific American Mind (volume 17, number 4), a magazine that I like to read. While browsing the magazine I noticed the "... Yet antidepressants offer no cure" on page 8, under the article "Prozac spurs neuron growth...". Since I have taken antidepressants for over 18 months, starting in 2001, and instead of experiencing any improvement but actually the opposite, my attention was drawn to this article, and so I started to read.

When finished I decided to quote the article on my blog, and adding my comments and views, which as far as I know is considered fair use of copyrighted material.

... Yet Antidepressants Offer No Cure

Do antidepressants "cure" depression? No says Joanna Moncrieff, a psychiatrist at University College London - no more then insuline "cures" diabetes or alcohol "cures" social anxiety.

In a way I am really happy that finally more and more professionals express what so many people have experienced when they where put on antidepressants. When I complained to my psychiatrist that I noticed no improvement at all he kept telling me to be patience, even after months and months. Later I was told that I was not cooperating with my medicines. I have no idea how one can cooperate with antidepressants, other then taking them, going to therapy, trying to stay safe, healthy, and alive.

Antidepressants cause abnormal brain states

Moncrieff, who has published several critical studies of psychiatric drugs in leading medical journals, advocates a "drug-centered" rather then "disease-centered" model for understanding psychoactive medication. "Instead of relieving a hypothetical biochemical abnormality," she says, antidepressants themselves cause "abnormal brain states," which may coincidentally relieve psychiatric symptoms.

When I was put on Cipramil, an SSRI, after my body couldn't handle Aropax (another SSRI) I noticed shortly after, that I got very clear dreams. Normally most of the time I can't recall my dreams, maybe also because I don't do any effort to recall them. But shortly after I started taking Cipramil I got very clear and confusing dreams. In one I dreamt I pushed accidentally my laptop off my desk. Later that day I was walking in a shopping center, and had a strong feeling that I had to buy a new laptop. Never before had I had such clear dreams, nor did they influence my real life. So I thought: it's working, I feel changes in my head.

No such luck, and I am afraid that many people who report that they feel better when they start taking antidepressants just experience the side effects combined with a strong placebo effect, which looks more positive when compared to a placebo alone, of course.

Do antidepressants correct a chemical imbalance?

As for curing depression, Moncrieff notes that "there are no known drug-induced effects consisting of long-term elevation of mood," nor is there any evidence that medication corrects a "chemical imbalance," as both pharmaceutical advertising and physicians often claim. These results may explain why, despite much greater use of antidepressants in recent years, there is "little evidence outside of controlled drug studies that long- or short-term outcomes for depression are changing."

When I started to read about depression and the whole "low serotonin level" story I was sold at first. It sounded so logical, and taking a medicine that slowed down the reuptake of serotonin (SSRI) even more. Yet why did it take 4 to 6 weeks to start working? Later other questions came, like: why don't they measure my serotonin level? How do much off balance is it?

Moreover, why did I get extreme strong suicidal feelings after a few weeks of taking Cipramil? And no, it wasn't because of the SSRI was curing me, and I suddenly had the energy to actually attempt to kill myself, an explanation that I have read and heard a few times. I didn't have those strong feelings before, and suddenly they were there, overwhelming me.

More frequent depressive episodes when taking antidepressants

Indeed, Moncrieff adds, some studies show that depressive episodes are more frequent and last longer among antidepressant users than nonusers. A drug-centered approach to treating some act as stimulants or as sedatives, whereas some blunt emotions - rather than labeling any as an "antidepressant" when no drug has been proved to deliver long-term mood elevation.

(author: Jonathan Beard)

After being put on Serzone for months one of my major complaints was that I was feeling sedated. Yet the psychiatrist kept telling me to have a bit more patience, and my psychologist was reporting small, but significant progress. Yet I was feeling no progress at all, more like I had already died inside, but my body hadn't realized this yet.

My situation slowly worsened also because of a lot of very emotional issues going on in my life. I had to move back from New Zealand to the Netherlands. One of the things I did was that I stopped taking Serzone. Things worsened even more, and then slowly, slowly things got better.

Sharp increase of prescriptions

Sadly I also learned that each year more and more people end up with antidepressants being prescribed to them, like it's "just" paracetamol, or viagra for the brain. The same issue of Scientific American, on the next page (9) reported:

Antipsychotic drugs, stimulants, and antidepressants were prescribed for five times as many children in 2002 than in 1993, according to a new study by Columbia University. The sharp increase concerns certain psychiatrists, who point out that many of the drugs are not expressly approved for children or adolescents and that few data exist on whether they work or on the risks of side effects.

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