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Tuesday 6 June 2017

Antidepressant Drugs and Depression. Another sign of the failure of conventional medicine

A doctor, writing in the GP's magazine 'Pulse' has said that doctors "need to stop prescribing antidepressants".  These medications, he says, are overprescribed and prescribed for too long. He is, of course, talking against the perceived wisdom of the conventional medical establishment, that has been stating for several years that mental health, and depression in particular, has been under-diagnosed and under-treated, and more drug treatment is needed. Dr Des Spence, a GP in Glasgow, and a tutor at the University of Glasgow, says this:

               "The ‘Defeat Depression’ campaign in adults in the 1990s was an unmitigated disaster for society. It led to vast numbers of prescriptions, lifelong treatment and side effects. Antidepressant prescribing rates have since doubled in a decade, to an eye watering 61 million prescriptions in 2015."

This campaign was orchestrated by the pharmaceutical industry, to promote and sell its antidepressant drugs which were based on the 'chemical imbalance' theory of depression. Drug companies believed (or at least they wanted us to believe) that antidepressant drugs could rectify this imbalance. But, as Spence states, the chemical imbalance theory "has limited science to support it", and cites this study, Lacasse JR, Leo J. Serotonin and depression: a disconnect between the advertisements and the scientific literature. PLoS Med 2005; 12: e392, to support this. Certainly, the use of antidepressant like Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) antidepressants that were designed to increase Serotonin levels in the brain, have been spectacularly unsuccessful!

Spence mentions that there is "much evidence suggesting antidepressants are completely ineffective". He quotes two studies to support his statement,

               Fournier JC et al. Antidepressant drug effects and depression severity: a patient-level meta-analysis. JAMA 2010; 303: 47-53

               Kirsch I et al. Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the Food and Drug Administration. PLoS Med 2008; 5:e45 

He also mentioned studies that I have already mentioned in my blogs, namely "that even by the most optimistic calculations 85% of patients get no benefit from medication at all".

               Arroll B et al. Antidepressants versus placebo for depression in primary care. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2009; 3: CD007954

               Haddad PM, Anderson IM. Recognising and managing antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. Adv Psychiatr Treat 2007; 13: 447–57

Spence also mention the withdrawal symptoms when patients have to stop taking the drugs, causing agitation, insomnia and mood swings "which many construe as a return of their low mood".

Yet he does not mention how spectacularly dangerous antidepressant drugs have been. I have written about this extensively on this page of my 'Why Homeopathy? website. There is now convincing evidence that these drugs have become a major cause of violence and suicide. The dangers of antidepressants is well-enough This does not prevent the conventional medical establishment promoting such drugs. It never has! And Spence himself knows that amongst his peers he is a voice in the wilderness.

               "Most people in primary care have reactive depression or adjustment disorders. But challenging this prevailing wisdom of course means I am stigmatising and dismissing mental illness and should be shouted down. But we all suffer mental illness at times, be it anxiety or depression, I know that I certainly have. The issue is how we manage mental illness."

                "Clearly psychological pain, just like physical pain, has a purpose - it is an evolutionary response. Psychological pain is the catalyst of change, acceptance and moving on. Talking it through, addressing social stresses, changing lifestyle and perhaps ending unhappy relationships is the solution. Antidepressants are not the answer for the vast, vast majority of people. We should aim to normalise, not medicalise."

                "Of course this will be dismissed as simplistic drivel, as life ‘is more complex than this’. But in my view it isn't, it really is as simple as that." 

Presumably Spence realises that his colleagues will prescribe antidepressant drugs quite regardless of how ineffective they are, or how dangerous they can be. This is what happens within the NHS. He calls for more use of, and improved access to counselling as a top priority. But he probably realises that 'talking therapies' are not profitable to the pharmaceutical industry, and so are unlikely to be promoted as he wants.

Yet Spence's article does indicate that there are doctors out there, no doubt too few, who are beginning to realise that conventional, drug-based medicine, is failing. So far (at the time of writing) there have been 43 responses to his article. I have looked through these, and perhaps 5 are critical of his article. Most responses seem resigned in hopelessness - doctors have to respond somehow - prescribing antibiotic drugs is 'pragmatic' -  they may not work, but they are effective as 'placebo'. A few responses suggest that if this is true of the prescription of antidepressant drugs, it is also true of antibiotics, and many other areas of conventional medical practice.

Sadly, few doctors seem to be aware of the serious side effects of antidepressant drugs. But the realisation that conventional medicine is failing is slowly progressing, and this article, and the responses, show that even the soldiers, the ground troops of conventional medicine, are realising that the game is up.