Antidepressants: Scam, Sham, or Both?

Mind Hacks links to a very interesting PLoS article (I'm a big fan of PLoS, by the way) that questions whether SSRI* antidepressants really deserve that name (*Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors).

The prevailing theory of depression today is that it's a brain disorder - a symptom of low serotonin levels. And so the prevailing form of treatment comes in the form of SSRI's, which raise serotonin levels (as demonstrated in that old Zoloft commercial). But as Mind Hacks points out, "the low serotonin theory of depression must rank as one of the most widely known and least supported scientific theories."

Which leads to the title of Mind Hacks' post: "What do antidepressants do?" Good question. After all, they clearly affect brain chemistry. But if the changes they make aren't countering depression and restoring the chemical balance back to normal, then they're creating a new mental state that's neither depression nor healthy. "High", maybe?
The authors of the PLoS Medicine paper argue that trials have shown that, for example, opiates and amphetamine-like drugs can have beneficial effects in depressed patients but are not considered 'antidepressants'.

Sounds right to me...


p.s. Since it's almost Tisha B'av, which is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, I figured depression is a fairly relevant topic...

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