At least 10 percent of Australians are on an Anti Depressant, that’s around 2.5 million people in this country alone. But do they work, and how long are you supposed to stay on them?
Recently, a pair of Australian psychiatrists questioned just this, stating they are overused and many times are not better than a placebo.
They suggest that most patients will recover over time irrespective of treatment. Whilst many still may need these medications with severe depression, many with despondent feelings and moods may be taking these drugs unnecessarily.
How they work?
Taking from 6-8 weeks after the first dose to start working, antidepressants may help relieve symptoms temporarily in different ways by altering chemicals in the brain like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine but many specialists are still unsure how they work, so saying it’s a chemical imbalance is sometimes not that simple. Different drugs seem to affect how the neuortransmitters behave.
Most anti depressants alter the regulation of serotonin the happy hormone, and by doing this change the other uses of serotonin like changing brain cells, regulation of nerve growth and death, digestion, muscle movement, development, blood clotting and reproduction. The brain is amazing and in long-term use it pushes back against the drugs and restores serotonin production, which is why many people have to up their doses or change the medication so it continues working. As serotonin is also found outside the brain in the gut, it affects all digestion and can cause an array of other issues altering the good bacteria responsible for homeostatic health in the body. Anti depressants also kill nerves and has been speculated to cause an array of health disorders including Parkinson’s, Cancers, impaired learning, dementia, irritable bowel disorders. Studies also suggest if given in pregnancy the drugs cross the placenta and can result in developmental issues, autism, pulmonary hypertension, respiratory disorders, abnormal bleeding. In older people it has been associated with early death.
Side effects like with any drugs include – Gut changes, nausea, headaches, reduce sex drive, weight gain, dry mouth and sweating
A 2011 US Centre for disease control and prevention estimated one in ten kids over 12 years old were on anti depressants. Anti depressant usage in kids and teens are usually not recommended due to the developing brains and bodies. In a 70 double blind placebo controlled trial of SSRI and SNRI found incidence of suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior doubled in kids and teens taking these drugs.
Speaking from experience, at one point in my life I had to take anti depressants as I was a workaholic and had no quality of life. The pressures placed on myself by me and also the society we live in were too great. I tried the lowest dose I could, and the despondent feelings disappeared. But so did all my feelings, all my emotions, and I didn’t really care about anything. After several months of taking this medication, under medical supervision, I weaned myself off them as directed by my doctor. I thought I would rather feel depressed than not feel anything at all.
I made lifestyle changes, work changes and slowly started rebuilding a life with quality doing activities that made me feel better. I occasionally still have a down day, but like everything in life what goes up must be balanced. Night and day, sun and moon, negative and positive, everything in nature has a balance and mental health is no different. My personal thoughts are that I would rather support the brain and nerves and hormone production with natural alternatives and lifestyle changes to achieve the balance rather than block the production or reuptake altogether.
This is just my experience, and I am sure millions of people around the world would have their own experiences.
Like all medications a combined treatment protocol utilizing both medication, psychotherapy and lifestyle changes are proven to be the best treatment approach for all conditions. Just having some good friends that can listen to you, not judge, express genuine empathy and be there for you is the best medicine. If you are not surrounded by these friends; then best you get some new ones.
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Disclaimer: The content of this blog is informative only and is my opinion. It does not constitute medical advice. Always consult your GP or medical specialist before changing or coming off any medication.