Maybe We Shouldn’t Be So Trusting

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I’m feeling scammed.  And a little nervous about what’s happened to my brain over the years.

I’ve been on anti-depressants for 23 years except for a two-year break when I was on Traditional Chinese Medicine instead.  For about the last four years I just take a tiny non-therapeutic dose to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay.

I’d really like to take nothing.  So I chatted with my homeopathic doctor who said it takes two maybe three years to really come clean from anti-depressants.  Huh?  It got me thinking.

Do I know anything about how these drugs have affected me all these years?  Have they done any damage?  Why can’t I come off them?  Is it because I actually have a chemical imbalance?

shouldn't be trustingPhoto Credit: Alyssa L. Miller via Compfight cc

So I’ve been doing some reading:

Comfortably Numb:  How Psychiatry Is Medicating a Nation – Charles Barber

Anatomy of an Epidemic:  Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America – Robert Whitaker

It seems there never has been any evidence for the chemical imbalance theory.

Did you know this?  I had always thought there was at least some sketchy evidence.  Nope.  Turns out there never was any assessment of what causes depression and what would fix it.

Turns out mood lifting drugs were discovered by accident – a side effect of an anti-tuberculosis drug.  The chemical imbalance theory was then retrofitted to explain what was going on.  It’s like saying that a fever is caused by an aspirin imbalance.

Not much has ever been known of the long term implications of the drugs but what is known is scary.

Antidepressants may be helpful in the short term but may worsen it in the long term making it treatment unresponsive.  The drugs may even be sensitizing your brain to depression.

When you start taking an anti-depressant all sorts of biological changes happen in your brain, some of which may eventually become permanent.  Yeah, there’s more serotonin floating around.  But if that cured depression, we’d feel good right away.  As we all know, it takes weeks for an anti-depressant to change how you feel, if at all.  So there are these other changes and no one really knows how any of it has anything to do with depression.  Yikes!

Turns out a lot of people are quickly diagnosed with major depression and then told they need lifelong medication.

When you believe you’ve now got safer drugs “than in the old days”, why not just prescribe a drug?  Why bother to figure out if someone is just having the normal human experience of depression rather than the illness of major depression?

What’s scary is how much a person can think differently about herself once she’s got a diagnosis and how much unknown risk there is in long term use of these drugs.

Depression nowadays isn’t what it used to be.

It used to be rare.  It used to come on later in life than it does now.  It used to be episodic with long periods of normalcy.

Now it seems to be common, chronic and with an average onset age of 14.

All sorts of factors may be contributing but the one that worries me is the possibility that drug companies and drugs are behind this shift.  That just pisses me off.

Maybe we’re too quick to pop a pill.  Too trusting in what a doctor tells us.  Too trusting in the safety of medication.  Too uncomfortable with our emotions.  Too confused to know what’s true anymore and too exhausted to question or challenge.

Next up in my e-reader:

The Emperor’s New Drugs:  Exploding the Antidepressant Myth – Irving Kirsch

Your Drug May Be Your Problem:  How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications – Peter R. Breggin, M.D. and David Cohen, PH.D.

You can read a 2011 New York Times Book review of some of these books here.

Are you nervous about what your drugs are doing to your brain?

Me July 2013

About the Author
Michele Longo
I promote peer support and encourage people on their recovery journeys. My plan with this blog is to build a community of like-minded individuals offering ideas and encouragement from their own experiences. My master plan is to help create psychologically safe and supportive workplaces. I live in Calgary, Canada.

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2 thoughts on “Maybe We Shouldn’t Be So Trusting

  1. Stephanie Michaels
    November 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    It took years of me going to the doctor and talking about what was going on in my head before my doctor prescribed anti-depressants. I don’t really know anyone who was prescribed with drugs until long after other avenues (diet, exorcize, counseling and time off) were explored.

    I think it would be interesting to see if there really is any data on whether any doctors actually just write a prescription without cause.

    You are right that there is a big problem in making the move away from the pills. I want to give this a shot and can tell you that I’m scared stiff. I remember those occasions where I stopped taking my anti-depressants — it got pretty shaky for a while there. It would be really helpful if there was a safe way to stop taking these pills so a person could test whether progress has been made over the course of treatment.

    1. Michele
      November 7, 2013 at 9:14 am

      Next up on my reading list is a book about coming off antidepressants – should be an interesting read. I find the more I read the more I want to get off them as fast as possible.

      I haven’t seen data on doctors writing a prescription without cause, it seems to be that most can’t accurately tell the difference between major depression and some of the other forms of depression and that they don’t do a real assessment to figure it out. It’s a judgement call.

      I can say that what I’ve read so far makes me think that when people “relapse” after coming off the drugs, it might not be a relapse so much as their brain having been changed from years of antidepressant use and now they can’t get by without them. But there doesn’t seem to be any definitive research on this. Heck there doesn’t seem to be much definitive research on anything related to anti-depressants.

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