Folks, America has a drug problem. It’s true. One out of every six people in this country currently takes a psychiatric medication. And the majority of these meds are antidepressants. Fortunately, safe, drug-free approaches to depression are available and they do work. But let’s first take a look at just how harmful these antidepressant medications can be.
Deadly and Dangerous Psych Drugs
Of particular concern is a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that include Prozac, Luvox, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro to name a few. Thousands of suicides and most of the shocking and horrific assaults against innocent students at schools, children in their homes, and employees at work have involved SSRI antidepressants or other psychiatric drugs.
Suicide and violence are the most serious adverse effects of SSRIs, but they are also notorious for causing sexual dysfunction, stomach problems, headaches, insomnia, and weight gain—a quarter of people gain 10 pounds or more while taking them. SSRIs are also associated with increases in anxiety, nervousness, agitation, and restlessness as well as a zombie-like blunting of emotions and inability to empathize with others.
Side effects aside, these drugs just don’t work very well. A meta-analysis of all the placebo-controlled clinical trials of antidepressants conducted over the past 30 years concluded that, for patients with mild or moderate depression—the majority of those taking these meds—the benefit over placebo is “minimal or nonexistent.”
Over-diagnosis and Overtreatment
Nevertheless, these drugs are being doled out like candy, regardless of whether or not they are actually warranted. Researchers from Johns Hopkins reviewed the records of 5,639 adults who had been diagnosed with major depression and determined that two-thirds did not meet the diagnostic criteria. Among people ages 65 and older, just 14 percent had major depression. That means a whopping 86 percent were inappropriately labeled and medicated.
More disturbing is the degree to which Big Pharma has penetrated medicine and our society as a whole. Physician mindset, time constraints, and insurance reimbursement policies favor quick office visits and drug scripts over really helping patients with their problems. And the American public goes along with it, apparently believing those ubiquitous pharmaceutical ads telling them that popping a pill will cure whatever ails them.
Proven Drug-Free Approaches to Depression
There is no magic bullet for depression. Because symptoms are often a normal response to life’s challenges, your initial step should be to address those challenges. Psychotherapy is the first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression in many countries, and talking to a friend, family member, or spiritual counselor may be an acceptable substitute.
Exercise and sun exposure are proven drug-free approaches to depression, and dietary changes such as avoiding sugars and starches to prevent blood sugar drops and mood swings are helpful. Supplements that support brain function include B vitamins, vitamin D, fish oil, S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), 5-HTP, GABA, L-tyrosine, low-dose lithium, inositol, Mucuna pruriens, saffron, and St. John’s wort. And meditation, prayer, yoga, acupuncture, reflexology, and massage are powerful stress busters.
At Whitaker Wellness, we look for and treat underlying conditions that may be linked with depression, such as imbalances in thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones; heavy metal toxicity; food allergies; insomnia and sleep apnea; and nutritional deficiencies. Pain and other health challenges affect mood as well, and depression often disappears with appropriate treatment of chronic disease. Neurofeedback, which helps normalize the brain’s electrical activity, is also a tremendous help for patients suffering with depression.
Life is stressful, and we all experience fear, sadness, grief, anxiety, and negative emotions. But that doesn’t mean you have a psychiatric disease or need a drug that messes with your brain chemistry. Give these drug-free approaches to depression a go—and let me know what works best for you.
Suggested supplements include B-complex vitamins, vitamin D, fish oil, SAM-e, 5-HTP, GABA, L-tyrosine, low-dose lithium, inositol, Mucuna pruriens, saffron, and St. John’s wort, used as directed. Look for these supplements in health food stores, online, or order by calling 800‑810‑6655. To learn more about treatment with neurofeedback and other therapies at Whitaker Wellness, call 866-944-8253.
If you are currently on an antidepressant, talk to your doctor about slowly weaning off it. Abrupt discontinuation may worsen symptoms. Severely depressed patients should seek professional help.