I received the following query from a reporter at a major American newspaper. He was writing a story on the EXPLOSION in the use of antidepressant drugs in America – and posed these questions:
Antidepressants are a huge business – can you comment on the mushrooming use of antidepressants? According to several recent studies, use of antidepressants has doubled in the past decade, and is now the single largest class of drugs. That raises several questions. Are antidepressants effective in the widespread population? Is the population now healthier and better treated than a decade ago? Are antidepressants the best therapy for depression?
Here is what I wrote back to him:
For your article on the epidemic of antidepressant over-prescribing in America, I would encourage you to alert your readers to some important facts.
Antidepressant therapy is certainly justified in many millions of Americans with severe depression (suicidal thoughts, etc) - but NOT in the millions MORE who fall into a category that is generally referred to as “Tired/Stressed/Depressed.”
Antidepressant drugs do not help these people because they are the wrong tool for the job (and a dangerous tool that carries FDA’s highest “black box” warning label to want of the severe adverse side effects including increased risk of suicide. There are very good studies showing that antidepressant drugs do NOT work well (or at all) in cases of mild to moderate depression - and they were approved by the FDA only for treatment of severe clinical depression.
Physicians are in a tough spot because up to 80% of all primary care visits are by patients who “feel terrible” (because of being tired/stressed/depressed) - and those patients want to leave the office with a “solution” - so a prescription for one of the many antidepressant drugs is what they get (Prozac, Zoloft, Welbutrin, Celexa, Paxil, the list goes on and on and on).
Best estimates right now are that more than HALF of all people taking antidepressant drugs should not be taking them at all because they will get better (and faster) results with non-drug therapy including improved diet, regular exercise, some dietary supplementation, and (of course) stress management.
I am a nutritional biochemist who has conducted research in this area and written several books on the topic (that chronic stress leads to millions of cases of “depression” which is not addressed by antidepressant drugs).
Our data have been presented at some of the leading scientific conferences in the country - including the recent scientific conferences of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Society for Nutritional Sciences (both in 2007) where we presented data showing that an easy-to-follow program of stress management, exercise, nutrition, and supplements was able to cut measures of depression by 52%, alleviate fatigue by 48%, and improve vigor (a measure of mental/physical energy) by 27% in subjects who were moderately stressed and who complained of feeling “tired/stressed/depressed” on a regular basis.
I’d be happy to fill in any details for you if you feel that this might be an angle you’d like to include in your article…
In addition to the scientific link between chronic stress and depression – via the disruption of metabolic balance (between cortisol – testosterone – HSD – serotonin – norepinephrine – and others), there are a couple of good recent studies that you might want to take a look at.
One is from the Archives of General Psychiatry (Aug 2009) – see the highlighted scientific abstract and a highlighted summary article at www.shawntalbott.com – showing that antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed class of medications in the United States – and more than 10% of the American population is taking one or more antidepressant drugs (27 million individuals).
The other research study is from the Aug 2009 issue of the Psychiatric Services journal (see highlighted scientific abstract and highlighted summary article an www.shawntalbott.com) – showing that huge numbers of Americans felt an antidepressant drug would be helpful for:
• 83% to help people to deal with day-to-day stresses
• 76% to make things easier in relation with family and friends
• 68% to help people feel better about themselves
Clearly, people are taking a LOT of antidepressant drugs - and they feel that they can be helpful - but given the fact that antidepressant drugs carry the FDA’s most stringent “Black Box” Warning (see definition at Wikipedia = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_box_warning), perhaps there is a better solution for the millions of Americans who are risking their long-term health. The black box warning is FDA’s Strongest Warning – that appears on the package insert for prescription drugs that may cause serious adverse effects – and indicating that the drug carries a significant risk of serious or even life-threatening adverse effects.
I’m not sure that a Black Box drug is the best choice for almost 30 million Americans who can get even better results in terms of mood and energy levels with natural options (faster, safer, more holistic).
Thanks for reading – until next time…
Shawn M. Talbott, Ph.D.
Nutritional Biochemist and Author
Follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/DocTalbott
NEW FILM - Killer at Large (www.KilleratLarge.com) - an award-winning documentary exploring the causes and solutions underlying the American obesity epidemic
-The Metabolic Method, The Complete Whole-Body Approach to Lasting Fat Loss, Better Mood, and More Energy (Currant Book)
-The Health Professionals Guide to Dietary Supplements (Lippincott, Williams & Wilkens)
-Cortisol Control and the Beauty Connection - The All-Natural Inside-Out Approach to Reversing Wrinkles, Preventing Acne, And Improving Skin Tone (Hunter House)
-Natural Solutions for Pain-Free Living (Chronicle Publishers - Currant Books)
-The Cortisol Connection - Why Stress Makes You Fat and Ruins Your Health (Hunter House)
-The Cortisol Connection Diet - The Breakthrough Program to Control Stress and Lose Weight (Hunter House)
-A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements - an Outstanding Academic Text of 2004 (Haworth Press)