SSRI Biobabble

Are you taking antidepressants?

Professor David Healy, is a major proponent of establishing evidence based psychiatric medication regulation rather than the indiscriminate prescribing of pills based on adept marketing campaigns by pharmaceutical companies.

Drug companies marketed SSRIs for depression, even though they were weaker than older tricyclic antidepressants, and sold the idea that depression was the deeper illness behind the superficial manifestations of anxiety.

David has published more than 150 peer-reviewed articles, 20 books and is involved as an expert witness in homicide and suicide trials implicating psychiatric drugs – bringing concerns about certain so-called medications to the attention of regulators.

The [marketing] approach was an astonishing success, central to which was the notion that SSRIs restored serotonin levels to normal, a notion that later transmuted into the idea that they remedied a chemical imbalance.

His latest article in the BMJ describes the myth that has been perpetuated over the last couple of decades around the role that serotonin plays in depression.

The lowered serotonin story took root in the public domain rather than in psychopharmacology. This public serotonin was like Freud’s notion of libido—vague, amorphous, and incapable of exploration—a piece of biobabble

The serotonin basis for mental illness is a myth. It has been persuasive and pervasive in our society yet there has been, and still is, no evidence to support it.

But you can bet that your doctor or psychiatrist will resort to prescribing SSRI antidepressants to you immediately if you just mention the words ‘depressed’ or ‘anxious’. Prescribed off-label for every complaint from BPD to grief, they have become a psycho-panacea – like duct-tape to an amateur mechanic.

Imagine a situation whereby a patient could be lawfully detained in a place where the doctor is allowed to medicate them based on the doctor’s own belief system. We would have patients in mental health units undergoing ‘intensive homeopathy’ or ‘constant prayer’ or patients being prescribed the miracle cure of ground Egyptian Mummy Powder. All endorsed by the MHRA and NICE because their use relied on the artistry of the practitioner over the science to back up the prescription.

This would be considered by most rational people as a terrible idea.

We expect the treatment and medication to have at least some foundation in science and efficacy based on evidence-based research not just based on a social construction or belief system and perpetuated by adept marketing.

In over three decades of research not a single piece of evidence has been reliably put forward in support of the serotonin or neurotransmitter basis of depression. No piece of scientifically backed evidence has been used to support the efficacy or method of action of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or indeed even their counterpart, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Enhancers.

Yet some psychiatrists still cling onto the belief that they are magical potions.

Concurrent with that thirty year research into efficacy an accumulation of evidence showing their potential for harm in some part of the population has built up.

So, for a chemical cure that exhibits no ‘clinically significant’ efficacy over a placebo in meta-studies making them sound benign, we have overwhelming evidence to the contrary: that in some part of the population their use can lead to an ‘activation syndrome’, exacerbated anxiety, aggression and increased suicidality.

If you are taking antidepressants, don’t stop suddenly. That can cause a whole other set of issues. Perhaps, though, you could ask your doctor how they work. What is their method of action? What evidence can the doctor refer to to support their efficacy for your ailment? Ask about the science behind the pill. Sometimes you will be confronted with the kind of attitude that you only get from someone when challenged on an irrational belief.



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