Do drugs really cure depression? – Research questions



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By BBC News Tamil


Updated: Monday, August 8, 2022, 17:28 [IST]

Will medicine cure depression

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Will medicine cure depression

A study showing that depression is not caused by low levels of the so-called ‘happy hormone’ in our bodies has become one of the most widely shared medical articles of all time.

This has sparked a debate about false claims about antidepressant drugs. Many of these drugs increase the level of serotonin in our brain.

This study does not show that these drugs are not effective.

But instead, it has raised some real questions about how people approach mental illness and what they think about it.

When Sarah was almost 20, she went into psychiatric treatment. The doctors told him that the drug prescribed to him was as much ‘insulin for a diabetic’ as it was for depression. He was told that it was necessary, that it would correct any chemical change in his brain, and that he would have to take it for the rest of his life.

His mother suffered from type 1 diabetes. So he took this very seriously.

Although Sarah felt very ill from taking these drugs, she continued to take them. Eventually hearing threatening voices telling him to kill himself led him to undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

The claim that he needed medication for depression, like a diabetic needs insulin, is not based on any medical evidence.

“I felt betrayed by people I trusted,” she says.

The changes in his body to the drugs were drastic, but he was told he had a ‘chemical imbalance’. That is not unusual.

Sarah and her mother


Sarah and her mother

Many psychiatrists say they’ve known for a long time that low levels of serotonin aren’t the main cause of depression, and this article says nothing new.

But the public’s unusual reaction to the news has made it a big news story.

But some argue that antidepressants don’t do the job of correcting chemical imbalances, to that they don’t work at all.

Also, in this confusion, people may suddenly stop taking their medication. Doctors fear that there is a risk of experiencing the consequences of suddenly abandoning the drugs.

So says Britain’s National Organization for Health and Care. That is, these drugs should not be stopped suddenly, except in medical emergencies. Also, tapering off the dosage will prevent the effects of sudden withdrawal symptoms.

Sarah has difficulty speaking and walking after receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).


Sarah has difficulty speaking and walking after receiving electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

What does the study show?

This latest study investigated 17 study samples. The brains of depressed people do not appear to have different levels of serotonin.

These findings help rule out the possibility that these drugs are correcting a defect.

“Many of us know that taking paracetamol can help with headaches, but no one believes that headaches are caused by not having enough paracetamol in the brain,” points out Dr. Michael Bloomfield.

If so, do antidepressants work?

Studies suggest that antidepressants work slightly better than placebos ((people say that the fake drugs may be the real thing). There is debate among researchers about how significant this difference is).

Some people who take antidepressants say that the drugs helped them during a mental crisis or helped them cope with depressive symptoms.

Antidepressants - review

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Antidepressants – review

Antidepressants are ‘one of the things that make many people feel better quickly,’ says Professor Linda Gask of Britain’s Royal College of Psychiatrists. Especially helps them in their time of crisis.

But Professor Joanna Moncrieff, one of the authors of the Serotonin Study Report, points out that most research by pharmaceutical companies is short-term studies. “So we don’t know much about how well people do after the first few months,” he said.

“You have to say we’re going to keep reviewing them, and you don’t need to prescribe them for longer than you’re taking them,” says Professor Kask, admitting that this doesn’t happen very often.

Although there are risks in leaving depression untreated, some people experience serious side effects from taking antidepressants. The authors of the serotonin study say this needs to be made more clear.

According to NICE, these include suicidal thoughts and attempts, lack of sex drive, feeling numb and insomnia.


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Doctors in Britain (UK) suggest that people with mild depression should be given therapy, exercise, mindfulness or meditation exercises before trying medication.

How is the study informative?

A false claim arose that the study showed that prescribing anti-depressants was ‘built on a myth’.

Antidepressants - review


Antidepressants – review

However, the use of these antidepressants has not been looked at.

Serotonin plays a role in our mood. So this can make people feel happy, at least in the short run.

Depression was never a disease of our brains. Others say the study is a reaction to their environment instead.

“It’s definitely both,” says Dr. Mark Horowitz, one of the authors of the study report.

For example, “your genetics influence your susceptibility to stress,” he says.

But for those dealing with difficult situations, ‘relationship counseling, financial advice or changing jobs’ may be more helpful than medication.

But Joe, who lives in South East Australia, suffers from both severe depression and psychosis. Depression, he says, will disappear if ‘all social problems are fixed’.

Psychosis runs in his family. But are often triggered by stressful events like exam deadlines

Joe says he took some life-changing treatments, including anti-depressants. The side effects were manageable, he says.

This is one thing that all the experts who spoke to BBC News agreed on – patients need to be more informed and better informed so they can make their own decisions in this difficult situation.

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Will medicine cure depression

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