How Do Antidepressants Really ‘Work’?

A recent review, published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, challenges the dominant assumptions about the neurochemical and therapeutic effects of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), one of the most commonly prescribed classes of antidepressant medication.

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Antidepressant Effects Thwarted by Stressful Environments

A new study, about to be published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, investigates the role a stressful environment plays in antidepressant effectiveness. The results of this study, conducted on mice to examine brain inflammation, indicate that SSRIs such as fluoxetine (Prozac) may only be effective for those who live relatively unstressed lives. Indeed, those with stressful lives may actually find their symptoms worsened by the use of such antidepressant medications.

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German Psychologists Declare “the Drugs Don’t Work”

Jürgen Margraf and Silvia Schneider, both well-known psychologists at the University of Bochum in Germany, claim that psychotropic drugs are no solution to mental health issues in an editorial for the latest issue of the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine. They argue that the effects of psychiatric drugs for depression, anxiety, and ‘ADHD’ are short-lived and may have negative long-term consequences.

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STOP or GO? Tapering Pregnant Women off of Antidepressants

A team in the Netherlands is currently investigating the effects of tapering off of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy. In this randomized controlled trial, one group of women will be guided in tapering off of SSRIs (STOP condition) while also receiving psychological support in the form of online preventive cognitive therapy (PCT). The other group will serve as the control group (GO condition) and will continue taking the SSRI as usual. The study is designed to compare the rates of relapse or recurrence of depression in both groups.

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Review Calls for Critical look at Prescribing Antidepressant Drugs

The August issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics published a review conducted by André F. Carvalho and colleagues regarding the literature around the long-term use of newer generation antidepressant drugs (ADs) and their side effects. Their investigation, which focused on data obtained from populations diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), found that there were a number of safety issues and potentially serious adverse events, which occurred as a consequence of using ADs.

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Review Finds Link Between Recession and Mental Health Issues

A literature review published in BMC Public Health by researchers from Portugal and the Czech Republic summarizes results from 101 studies investigating the effect of recent economic recessions on populations’ mental health. Most of the studies were conducted in countries in Europe and North America. The results indicate that, despite the lack of longitudinal data, there is growing evidence cross-nationally that periods of recession lead to an increase in the diagnosis of 'mental illness,' substance use and abuse, and suicide rates.

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Petition Calls on Pharma Companies to Offer Tapering Kits for Depression and Anxiety Drugs

A change.org petition out of the United Kingdom is addressing the extreme difficulty faced by people who attempt to taper off of antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.  The petition calls on the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to require pharmaceutical companies to produce “drug tapering kits” designed to help patients reduce their medications over time. “As it is now, many people who want to stop have no option but to reduce to the lowest possible dosage then ‘jump off’ which can be extremely challenging,” the petition reads. “Some users simply carry on taking a drug beyond the point at which it was effective and useful to avoid the challenge of stopping.”

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Doctors Can Be Liable if Patients Commit Suicide, Court Rules

Politico reports on a decision from the Florida Supreme Court last Thursday that may influence how physicians treat depression and how they are held responsible for that treatment. In the case in question, the husband of Jacqueline Granicz, who committed suicide in 2008, sued a physician for prescribing the antidepressant Lexapro without requesting a meeting or an evaluation.

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Financial Difficulties Facing College Students Lead to Mental Health Issues

A new study published open-access this month in Community Mental Health Journal finds that the increased financial difficulties facing college students lead to greater depression, anxiety, and alcohol misuse over time. In the longitudinal study of students in the UK, financial problems predicted poorer mental health and poorer mental health then led to greater financial hardship, signaling the possibility of a vicious cycle occurring.

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Study Identifies Link Between Antidepressants and Newborn Hypertension

A new study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, investigates how the use of antidepressants during pregnancy can lead to a life-threatening lung complication in newborns. Previous research has demonstrated that exposure to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in utero is associated with an increased risk for persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), but this latest study makes use of animal models to locate the biological mechanism through which this occurs.

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Study Examines Experience of Long-Term Antidepressant Use

The use of antidepressants has increased substantially in recent years, yet relatively few studies have asked patients about their experiences with these drugs. A new study, published open-access this week, does just that. After interviewing 180 long-term users of antidepressants, the researchers found that while the majority reported an improvement in depression, many also experienced problems with withdrawal symptoms, and others said they “felt addicted.”

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Researchers Investigate Antidepressant-Induced Suicidal Ideation

An increase in suicidal thoughts is a known and serious side-effect for various types of antidepressants. Recent studies suggest that there may be some genetic factors that increase the risk for this reaction. A new study, in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, identifies two specific genetic variants that are associated with worsening suicidal ideation in patients taking antidepressants.

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Violence Caused by Antidepressants: An Update after Munich  

The media is now reporting details about the 18-year-old who shot and killed nine and wounded many others before killing himself on July 22 in Munich. My clinical and forensic experience leads to a distinction among people who murder under the influence of psychiatric drugs. Those who kill only one or two people, or close family members, often have little or no history of mental disturbance and violent tendencies. The drug itself seems like the sole cause of the violent outburst. On the other hand, most of those who commit mass violence while taking psychiatric drugs often have a long history of mental disturbance and sometimes violence. For these people, the mental health system seems to have provoked increasing violence without recognizing the danger.
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“Why are Doctors Plagued by Depression and Suicide?”

For STAT news, Judith Graham reports on the escalating crisis of depression, burnout, and suicide among physicians. “Male doctors are 1.4 times more likely to kill themselves than men in the general population; female physicians, 2.3 times more likely.”

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The ONION: “New Antidepressant Makes Friends’ Problems Seem Worse”

“This drug allows depressed patients to concentrate exclusively on their friends’ troubles and mentally magnify them, enabling them to, for example, construe an insignificant argument between a couple they know as a sign that these individuals are in the middle of a catastrophic marital crisis. And we found that that thought alone is enough to improve the subject’s mood for a week or longer.”

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Most People with Common ‘Mental Disorders’ Get Better Without Treatment, Study Finds

A new study suggests that most people diagnosed with depressive, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders recover without treatment within a year of diagnosis. “This study further supports the argument that meeting diagnostic criteria for a mental disorder does not necessarily indicate a need for mental health treatment,” the researchers, led by Jitender Sareen from the University of Manitoba, write.

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Psychologists and Psychiatrists Approach Mental Health Differently

Psychiatrists and psychologists have traditionally taken distinct approaches toward mental health and, according to a new study, these differences may be here to stay. Researchers in the UK surveyed psychiatrists and psychologists in training about their perspectives on the causes of mental health issues and found that, despite attempts to integrate the field, the two disciplines “continue to sit at opposite ends of a biological/psychological spectrum.”

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Antidepressants Often Prescribed to Enforce Heteronormativity, Study Concludes

A new study investigating fifteen years of patient records at a Midwestern hospital found that psychiatrists almost always responded to patient complaints about their relationships by prescribing antidepressants, despite the fact that these complaints had little to do with the DSM criteria for depression. The study’s lead author, Jonathan Metzl, a professor of Sociology and Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt, suggests that after the decision in 1974 to remove homosexuality from the DSM, psychiatry continued to enforce forms of socially accepted relationships through the prescription of antidepressants.

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“Depression Pills Made Me Unfit To Be A Mother”

The award-winning documentarian, Katinka Blackford Newman, talks to the Daily Mail about her new book on the dangers of antidepressants, The Pill That Steals Lives: One Woman’s Terrifying Journey To Discover The Truth About Antidepressants.

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Experts Debate Expansion of Assisted Dying Legislation to Psychiatric Patients

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that adults with a “grievous and irremediable” condition have a right to medically assisted suicide. In an effort to legislate this right, a parliamentary committee was formed that suggested extending this definition to nonterminal medical conditions, including psychiatric disorders. In response, the Canadian Medical Association Journal printed an editorial by bioethics and public health experts Scott Kim and Tudo Lemmens. Kim and Lemmens argue that extending assisted dying laws to include patients diagnosed with psychiatric disorders “will put many vulnerable and stigmatized people at risk.”

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Effects of Exercise on Depression Underestimated, Review Finds

A new meta-analysis finds that the large antidepressant effects of exercise may have been underestimated in previous reviews. This latest report, published this month in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, examines twenty-five previous studies and concludes that regular exercise has a large and significant antidepressant effect in people diagnosed with moderate and severe depression.

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New Study Finds Brain Changes in Newborns Exposed to Antidepressants

A first of its kind neuroscience study, published this month in Cerebral Cortex, found changes in the brain electrical activity of infants exposed to SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy. The changes are associated with less-organized communication between the brain’s hemispheres and are comparable to the effects found in previous animal studies. The researchers call for more critical evaluations of the prescription of antidepressants during pregnancy and suggest that non-pharmacologic and therapeutic alternatives should be the preferred treatment.

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Well-Being Therapy: A Guide to Long-term Recovery

If a patient has high cholesterol or sugar, the doctor may prescribe a drug to lower what is too high, but he/she generally adds some suggestions: for instance to avoid certain types of food, to do more physical activity, to refrain from smoking. But if someone has a low mood and sees medical help, the doctor–particularly if he or she is a psychiatrist–will likely just prescribe a drug and not encourage any “self-therapy.” The problem with his approach to care is that psychiatric drugs, even when they are properly prescribed, may help very little in the long run and create a number of additional problems
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“If Antidepressants Don’t Work Well, Why Are They So Popular?”

“The true balance of risk versus benefit for people taking these kinds of antidepressants will probably only emerge when independent researchers have access to all the data from clinical trials – something manufacturers of these drugs are still resisting.”

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My Pharmaceutical Reincarnation

I lost almost four years of my life, and I’ve not a doubt that it was due to those “life-saving” pills. To that end, they did work. At a time when I was doubled-over with depression, those four prescriptions kept me alive. But then they killed me slowly and brought me back as a stranger.
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