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The Limits of Antidepressants: Exploring the Alternatives

January 21, 2013

In 2008, we learned that the benefits of antidepressants had been greatly overstated. [1] Former FDA psychiatrist Erick H. Turner, M.D. uncovered some startling information about Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), including Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. In reviewing all the medical literature, he learned that 94 percent of the reports showing the therapeutic benefits of SSRIs were published compared to only 14 percent of the reports showing either no benefits or inconclusive results (of taking SSRIs were published). When he weighed all the literature, Dr. Turner determined that SSRIs were no more effective than a placebo for treating most depressive patients. Those with severe depression were helped, sometimes greatly, but those with mild to moderate depression, the majority of cases, received little relief. British researchers using the Freedom of Information Act uncovered identical findings. [2]

In January 2010, another study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirms these findings. The newest study also evaluated another class of antidepressants, tricyclic antidepressants. Again, researchers determined that the typical patient, one with mild to moderate depression, gets the same amount of relief from a placebo as from an antidepressant. [3][4] The first author of the study, Jay C. Fournier, MA, told Medscape, “I think the most surprising part of the findings was how severe depression has to be in order to see this clinically meaningful difference emerge between medication and placebo, and that the majority of depressed patients presenting for treatment do not fall into that very severe category.”

The New York Times reported that the co-author of the study, Robert J. DeRubeis, shared this important insight: “The message for patients with mild to moderate depression is ‘Look, medications are always an option, but there’s little evidence that they add to other efforts to shake depression–whether it’s exercise, seeing the doctor, reading about the disorder or going for psychotherapy.'”

To get over it, you must be willing to make some changes that will support healthy brain biochemistry. Otherwise, depression is likely to recur. As studies have shown, antidepressant medication and getting help are associated with a very significant placebo effect. When you feel you are getting help, your body naturally gets better. This is why I have never prescribed antidepressants of any kind unless my patient was also willing to enter some kind of therapeutic relationship with a counselor to help her sort out the aspects of her life that needed improvement. In other words, we, as a society and as individuals, need to understand that getting on the right medication does not guarantee a cure for depression.

One of the best ways to support health brain chemistry is by taking fish oil. Fish oil has been shown time an again to relieve mild to moderate depression. The omega-3 fatty acids are essential to brain health and, according to Capt. Joe Hibbeln, M.D., these important fats support the serotonin system, may help reduce stress and lower your risk of all kinds of mental illness. Dr. Hibbeln, Chief of Outpatient Services for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), is one of the world’s leading researchers on omega-3 fats. His findings have been compelling and encouraging. He recently helped organize and spoke at a conference on “Nutritional Armor for the Warfighter” held by the Samueli Group where presenters discussed the role that omega-3 fats may play in stress resilience, wellness and military performance.

via Christiane Northrup, MD: The Limits of Antidepressants: Exploring the Alternatives.

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