New Studies Show Antidepressant Drugs Don’t Work
Two new studies, one reported in the January 2008 Edition of the New England Journal of Medicine and the second one in February 2008 reported by Dr.Irving Kirsch at the University of Hull in England have shown that anti-depressant drugs do not alleviate depression any more than placebos (sugar pills).
In the New England Journal study, the researchers looked at 74 studies involving 12 different antidepressant drugs that were submitted to the FDA between 1987 and 2004, 38 of which the FDA called “positive”. Though all but one of the positive studies were published, only 14 of the 36 “negative studies were printed in medical journals.
However, the pharmaceutical companies, in their infinite wisdom were able to convert 11 of the 14 negative findings in such a way as to make them look as if the drugs were actually beneficial. They did this by highlighting secondary outcomes and not including negative primary results.
Just this month Dr.Ida Sim, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco examined 909 clinical trials done between 1998 and 2000 that were submitted as evidence to back up the approval process of 90 new drugs. They found that only 43% of the studies were actually published and these were only the ones with positive results.
The second study done by Dr Irving Kirsch from the Department of Psychology at Hull was published in the journal, Public Library of Science and they thoroughly looked at 47 clinical trials that were released by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). When they examined all the data, which included at great amount of unpublished material, they found that the antidepressant drugs did not have any more effect on depression than placebos. They also found that unlike placebos, they had a huge range of side-effects which were very severe and that these drugs are very addicting.
One of the main side-effects of antidepressant drugs is suicide and most of these suicides have occurred in North America among the under eighteen population. In England and Europe it is against the law to prescribe SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) to patients under 18 because the human brain has not fully developed until the age of at least 20 to 25 years. However, in North America, pharmaceutical companies have convinced the FDA to allow prescribing these SSRIs to teenagers for hyper attention deficit disorder and for teenage depression and the results have been disastrous. The number one cause of teenage death in North America is suicide.
It is important to consider the fact that there are 22 people from the United States FDA that study these reports and either approve or disapprove the submission. But eleven of the 22 work directly for pharmaceutical companies and the other eleven were chosen from the pharmaceutical industry. This is a severe conflict of interest that should never be allowed at any level of government, let alone the approval of harmful drugs. It was this same group of people that approved the anti-inflammatory drug, Vioxx which accounted for at least 100,000 heart attacks and 28,000 deaths in the United States alone.
Many of you take these drugs under the names Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, and Celexa. These are the SSRIs which mean that they only have an effect on serotonin levels. The newer ones which are much more dangerous are Effexor and Cymbalta. These drugs not only affect serotonin receptors but also have an effect on another transmitter in your brain known as norepinephrine. When a physician prescribes a drug for a patient there is always the risk of a side-effect. The rule of thumb is that if the benefits outweigh the risk then the drug should be taken. In this case two studies show that the benefits are nil and yet just take a look at the side-effects.
– Sexual Dysfunction
– Weight gain
– Blurred Vision
– Heart Palpitations
– Bladder problems
If you were taking the most prescribed drug for cholesterol, Lipitor, and stopped taking this medication you would not have any withdrawal symptoms. However, if you tried to stop taking one of the new antidepressants you would suffer from night sweats, delirium tremors, panic and anxiety attacks and severe depression. These drugs are just as addicting as narcotics or tobacco and just as hard to stop. So why are so many people taking these drugs?
Prescribing Habits of Physicians
When you visit your doctor, the main reason you have made this appointment is concern over your health. The principle diagnosis that the majority of people receive is that they have a cardiovascular problem; this means that you have high blood pressure, or possible elevated cholesterol levels or you have shortness of breath due to heart palpitations or you just do not feel healthy. As a result the number one category of prescribed medications is for one or more of these conditions.
The biggest surprise is the number two reason why we see a physician and it is anxiety or depression or both. In Canada in the year 2007, the total number of prescriptions dispensed for cardiovascular disease was just over 67 million which ranked number one in the therapeutic class known as cardiovascular drugs. The number two classification was for psychotherapeutic drugs which are primarily antidepressants and in 2007 the total number of prescriptions in Canada was slightly over 52 million. To put this in perspective, analgesics such as Tylenol # 3 and similar narcotics were in 7th place at 19.5 million prescriptions that year.
Anxiety versus Depression
I personally feel that most of the antidepressants have been improperly prescribed by family physicians because the pharmaceutical industry has blurred the definitions of anxiety and converted it to depression because it makes them much more profitable.
Up until about 10 years ago if you were stressed-out, not sleeping well, worried about your job, your family, your children, your physician had a wide range of anti-anxiety drugs. These were from a class of pharmaceutical drugs known as benzodiazepams. It started with Librium and Valium and evolved to Ativan (lorazepam) and Rivotril (clonazepam) and triazolam. Eventually all these drugs were available in generic form and the pharmaceutical industry needed new drugs for anxiety that the generic companies would not be able to duplicate. The new drugs would be far more expensive and produce huge profits for the brand-name companies.
They mounted a sustained effort to convince physicians that all the symptoms of anxiety could simply be lumped into one category and the true name for this condition was mild depression. For this condition they had a variety of SSRIs that were not available in generics and could provide a high profit margin. As the SSRIs became genericised they pushed the physicians into the combination SSRIs and norepinephrine uptake inhibitors like Effexor which turned out to be the most addicting drugs of all. Many people did feel better but the new studies show that the same people would have felt just as good if they had taken a sugar pill and they would not have suffered any side-effects.
One of the most common complaints patients bring to their family physician is insomnia. And yet, by distorting the truth about side-effects pharmaceutical companies have convinced physicians that mild sleeping pills like lorazepam, Imovane (zopiclone) or Halcion (triazolam) were addicting and should not be prescribed continually for insomnia. The SSRI antidepressants actually cause insomnia and this is the number one complaint about these drugs. The number two complaint is sexual dysfunction and this occurs primarily in men. But not to worry, the pharmaceutical industry has other drugs available for these gentlemen under the names Viagra, Levitra and Cialis.
Your family physician is not the only target of the pharmaceutical industry. Although it is strictly against the law to advertise prescription drugs in Canada, most of us get our evening news from one of the major US networks and during that broadcast we are bombarded with prescription commercials. Many people want to be as happy and cheerful as the ones portrayed in these ads and they plead with their physicians to prescribe the medication hoping it will turn their life around and make them happy again. And just as they enunciate the great qualities of the drug and show us pleasing images, at the end a voice runs over the side-effects so quickly that you would be lucky to remember one or two of the 15 mentioned. Your physician is treated the same way and eventually has very little recall of the down side of the drugs they prescribe.
As I mentioned earlier, it is possible that antidepressant drugs may actually cause more suicides than they prevent. These drugs work very differently in the adolescent brain as opposed to the fully grown and developed adult brain. Many physicians prescribe these drugs to very young children because they have anxiety about school, maybe they are being bullied, maybe they are behaving badly or they just do not conform to the teacher’s standards. When you send a child to school with an SSRI antidepressant drug you might as well be sending him or her to school drunk, but with their motor skills intact. At a young age these drugs remove inhibitions but without affecting hand or eye coordination. It is only natural to have fears of harm or danger but once you give these medications to your children they feel invincible. Yes, their behaviour seems to improve but their fear of harm or death may disappear and hence many adolescent suicides. These drugs have also been attributed to many adult suicides and in North America suicide is the number 11 cause of death in our population ahead of chronic liver disease which is 13th and HIV AIDS which is the 15th leading cause of death.
Medical Treatment versus Natural Treatment
If your symptoms of anxiety or depression or both are severe enough, a good family physician will not prescribe any drugs but will set you up with a psychiatrist. The treatment that works the best is short-term cognitive therapy in which the patient visits the psychiatrist for a few months, shares their problems, fears and anxieties and learns how to deal with it and work around it. In Canada, there is a shortage of psychiatrists and this means they have more patients than they can handle. The Ontario Provincial Health Plan allows them to charge $105 for a 45 minute session and a fifteen minute report or they can choose to medicate their patients and see four of them in that same hour and still receive $105 per patient. This results in most patients taking dangerous drugs and not getting the most natural treatment, an expert who can listen to their problems.
The supplements available for mild depression and anxiety work only on the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is involved in many of your brain’s activities which include anger, aggression, mood, sexuality, sleep, body temperature, appetite and metabolism. I am sure that you have noticed that if you do not eat any food for an extended period of time you become irritable and agitated. When you finally get to eat and the food is digested you are overcome by a comfortable serene feeling and this is the release of serotonin which occurs immediately after your meal. Supplements such as St.John’s Wort and 5- hydroxytryptophan mimic the effects of food in your body by producing more of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. They produce a natural over abundance of serotonin which eventually diminishes. Prescription drugs do not allow for the normal dissipation of the serotonin and keep it attached to the receptors in your brain for an extended period of time. This unnatural effect causes the many side-effects and addiction qualities of the antidepressant drugs. The only side effect you would get from the supplements is drowsiness, no more than if you ate a large turkey dinner and if you do get this effect you simply lower the dose. Furthermore you can stop them at any time because they are no more addicting than a doughnut. They can be safely used as a substitute for SSRIs but they should not be started for at least 14 days after the last antidepressant pill has been taken. The drugs take 14 days to wash out of your liver and so the first two weeks after discontinuing your antidepressant drug you will not have any withdrawal symptoms because the drug is still working in your system. However, after that it is advisable to take the supplements as a form of “bridge” therapy to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal. There is also a contraindication between St.John’s Wort and SSRIs because they are both detoxified at the same site in your liver so it is very important you do not take these two things simultaneously.
This is the most natural way to overcome anxiety and depression. Simply take a walk, or ride your bike or go to the gym and work off all that stress and anxiety. Exercise produces natural happy hormones called endorphins and these hormones elevate your mood. While you do your exercise thoughts will run through your mind and hopefully you will rationalize these thoughts and when you are finished your routine you feel you will not have to kill your boss or even yourself. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day. Maybe things will look up. With most of these negative thoughts removed you are now able to sleep better and with a good night’s rest comes a better attitude towards life.
There are some people who are severely depressed and many of these people could not survive without the use of antidepressants. For them they are life-saving drugs that allow them to function in society. However, if you have moderate to mild depression and anxiety associated with it, try every natural route before falling into the dangerous trap o