“Mental Illness: is ‘Chemical Imbalance’ Theory a Myth?”

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Canada’s The Star traces the “chemical imbalance” story’s fall from bedrock scientific principle to marketing device, at the same time that a $70 billion worldwide drug market was built on the theory. “The view among neuroscientists,” says Edward Shorter, a medical historian at the University of Toronto, “is that this emphasis on neurotransmitters as the cause of mental illness is more of a (drug sales) concept than a scientific concept. It helps drug companies sell drugs.”

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  1. Glad to have some of this pseudoscientific nonsense debunked, though the idea that this is a recent discovery is wrong – the scientific world knew that depressed people weren’t suffering a serotonin deficiency as far back as the mid 1980s, BEFORE Prozac even hit the market.

    It is interesting to note that all of the comments regarding neuroplasticity focused on finding drug-based ways to regrow neural connections, which predictably lead to other disastrous side effects like cancer. This ignores the fairly robust research that suggests human relationships and other environmental impacts can and do cause changes in the brain, even late in life, and that the best way to heal a damaged brain is a healthy relationship with a healthy adult. Bruce Perry’s work is a great place to find out more about this. But this would explain why talking to a friend, joining a support groups, or seeing a counselor is helpful – we CAN modify our brains by how we act and whom we interact with.

    — Steve

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