Anti-depressants or Placebos?
I just read that the use of antidepressants is up almost 400% since 1988. Antidepressants have become the medicine most used by people ages 18-44, but fewer than one-third of the people taking them reported seeing a mental-health professional in the past year. People are being prescribed these drugs without discussing other alternatives and I suppose the doctors and the patients both share responsibility for that. This is just astounding to me. I get what it’s like to be depressed and what a vicious cycle it can be. And I understand the desire to feel better fast. But I can’t quite comprehend going straight to mood-altering chemicals without first trying to figure out what is causing the depression.
A recent story on 60 Minutes highlights a Harvard scientist who says that the chemical ingredients in the antidepressant drugs aren’t making people better, but rather it’s the placebo effect that’s actually improving their moods. The expectation of healing from the taking of a pill is so powerful, the body reacts and actually heals itself. More proof that the mind and body are connected. And if just our expectation of something could be powerful enough to lift our moods, why wouldn’t we put effort into changing our thoughts long-term, instead of putting all our money into the drugs that could very well be causing other adverse reactions in our bodies?
Functional Medicine is a growing arm of health care that strives to identify and address the root causes of disease. Instead of prescribing drugs for each symptom, as is widely practiced in today’s medicine, functional medicine takes an individualized approach addressing genetics, diet, nutrition, environmental exposures, stress, exercise, and psychospiritual needs. Mark Hyman is such a doctor who says that when patients tell him that they’re depressed, he investigates further to find out what’s causing the symptoms. Just hearing him rattle off some potential causes (low thyroid, vitamin b deficiency, inflammation in the gut, high levels of mercury, insulin resistance, etc) makes me wonder why people wouldn’t want to investigate all possibilities in case it’s something simple that can be corrected with diet and/or exercise.
But people want a quick fix. Just because it comes from a doctor, they deem it safe and effective. But if the antidepressants were so effective in curing depression, wouldn’t the use of these drugs be less over time, instead of 400% higher? And as exposed in the 60 Minutes segment, the pharmaceutical companies have everything to gain by convincing us that their drugs are effective. The fact that they’re selectively presenting evidence and hiding studies that prove otherwise should tell us that they don’t have our best interests in mind.