By September 4, 2014 12 Comments Read More →

What If Everything We Know About Treating Depression Is Wrong?

Flickr - Pills - Matt BrowneCliff Weathers, AlterNet
Waking Times

Scientific studies indicate that current medications target the wrong parts of the brain.

A new study is challenging the relationship between depression and an imbalance of serotonin levels in the brain, and brings into doubt how depression has been treated in the U.S. over the past 20 years.

Researchers at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit have bred mice who cannot produce serotonin in their brains, which should theoretically make them chronically depressed. But researchers instead found that the mice showed no signs of depression, but instead acted aggressively and exhibited compulsive personality traits.

This study backs recent research indicating that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, may not be effective in lifting people out of depression. These commonly used antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft, and Lexapro, are taken by some 10% of the U.S. population and nearly 25% of women between 40 and 60 years of age. More than 350 million people suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organization, and it is the leading cause of disability across the globe.

The study was published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Donald Kuhn, the lead author of the study, set out to find what role, if any, serotonin played in depression. To do this, Kuhn and his associates bred mice who lacked the ability to produce serotonin in their brains, and ran a battery of behavioral tests on them. In addition to being compulsive and extremely aggressive, the mice who could not produce serotonin showed no signs of depression-like symptoms. The researchers also found, to their surprise, that under stressful conditions, the serotonin-deficient mice behaved normally.

A subset of the mice who couldn’t produce serotonin were given antidepressant medications and they responded in a similar manner to the drugs as did normal mice. Altogether, the study found that serotonin is not a major player in depression, and science should look elsewhere to identify other factors that might be involved. These results could greatly reshape depression research, the authors say, and shift the focus of the search for depression treatments.

The study joins others in directly challenging the notion that depression is related to lower levels of serotonin in the brain. One study has shown that some two-thirds of those who take SSRIs remain depressed, while another study has even found them clinically insignificant.

Critics of common antidepressants claim they’re not much better than a placebo, yet may still have unwanted side effects.

SSRIs started to become widely used in the 1980s. Their introduction was heralded by the psychiatric community as a new era where safer drugs that directly targeted the causes of depression would become the standard. While SSRIs aren’t more effective than the older antidepressants, such as tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors, they are less toxic.

An earlier study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that two out of three patients with depression don’t fully recover using modern antidepressants.

These results “are important because previously it was unclear just how effective (or ineffective) antidepressant medications are in patients seeking treatment in real-world settings,” said James Murrough, a research fellow at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program.

About the Author

Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers and on Facebook.

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  • kal

    If you are suffering from depression, I highly recommend getting the destroy depression system.
    Written by a former sufferer of depression, it teaches a simple 7-step process to eliminate depression from your life once and for all.

  • Fred Milton Olsen III

    Another BOGUS sensationalistic headline from a website I grow tired of.

    We know quite a bit about depression. The whole toolkit isn’t SSRIs or dependent on the seratonin-deficiency hypothesis.

    If the writer wants to write this way, I suggest that he get a job in the mainstream media, where such sensationalistic headlines can be used to make a real profit and REALLY hurt people rather than the penny-ante stuff here. Get a REAL journalistic job as a gatekeeper.

  • me

    THEre may not be one specific cause but to me it’s Starting to look like a hormonal imbalance is one of The major caUses. if that’s correct we need to identify what triggeRs the imbalance. i read an article about proGesterone and how women who had high lEvels of it were prone to depression. if i recall correctly, it is the hormone that plays a majOr role in child birth. iNteresting article

  • Jo Buczek

    The way pharma corps treat depression is wrong, not because they made a mistake, but only because having us healthy is not their goal. The only thing they try to attain is money, money and money ! Antidepressants, prozac, etc… are totally ineffective ! On the contrary, they have a lot of side effects ! But why the pharma corps should care about that? If we knew all of this were ineffective, they will lose billions of dollars, so obviously, why telling us antidepressants are a huge hoax?
    But now, maybe they realise that people start wondering if all these medicine really work. Therefore, they will probably say that they were targeting the wrong part of the brains in order to have a justification explaining why they’re having no results with it. And they will probably take approximatively the same medicine, change the name and say that will target the right parts of the brain this time ! But it won’t ! And they absolutely don’t care because meanwhile, they will continue to “steal” billions from the government. Yes, we live in a lovely planet with lovely people who only want our good ! Well….no, this doen’t exist, not yet at least.

  • Aude Sapere

    Andrew Stoll MD, in The Omega-3 Connection, published in 2001, describes his studies of patients with treatment-resistant major depression. These patients had not responded to treatment with any conventional antidepressants, but when fish oil was added, even the patients were surprised at their improvement. This makes sense because without omega-3 fatty acids, the brain cannot function normally, so even the strongest antidepressant will be ineffective.

    He then went on to studies of patients with bipolar disorder. In 1997 he presented the results of a planned nine-month double-blind placebo-controlled study of thirty high-risk patients with bipolar disorder, treated with fish oil. A four month preliminary analysis of the data showed such amazing results with fish oil compared to patients on placebo, who were no better or even getting worse, that he cut the study short and offered fish oil to all participants, and published the results in the Archives of
    General Psychiatry. In the bipolar study, he gave patients 9.6 grams of omega-3 per day, (6.2 of EPA and 3.4 of DHA), but he finds that in clinical practice, 2 to 5 grams per day is adequate for most patients.

  • HealthyEgo

    I offer that depression is the state of being that is the manifestation of separateness from Spirit experienced when we are conditioned to live life almost exclusively from the brain’s intelligence rather than from a harmonious balance with the heart’s inner wisdom (a non-linear and less logical intelligence).

    The depression is a very profound sadness expressed by our Soul that we are playing someone else’s game that is devoid of true freedom and unlimited potential, which is everyone’s inherent birthright. In essence, as we live our lives of illusion wrought with endless manipulation all built upon a mirage of fear, we are stifling who we truly are. The depression is a deep sadness that is spiritual in nature.

    If we continue to believe that suffering is only limited to our human condition, we are denying a Universal Law that states “All is Duality.”

    • Yes! this is perfect HealthyEgo… I like what you’ve said very much. Thank you. And I agree wholeheartedly.

    • Meter

      While I like your connection of depression with loss of freedom, I see two errors.

      One, the soul does not experience fear or sadness and is not based in duality. The soul is the part of us that is God. It always inspires us to our highest choices, which is love. (It is up to us whether to choose to express the soul’s desire or ignore it.)

      Second, not all is duality. Duality is only seen in the gross illusions of life. “All is duality” speaks of the illusion (hot/cold, love/hate). “All is Oneness” speaks of the truth of Life itself – love is all there is.

      It’s disappointing to see people so confused on something as simple as depression. Read up on the five natural emotions. This material is not a mystery, but I realize that there is much disinformation and uninspired teachings.

      When children are taught to repress and deny their grief (a natural emotion), depression forms. “There, there, don’t cry!” Repressed grief is the source of depression.

      100 years ago Freud began the explanation of the mechanisms of emotional repression in humans. This is not a mystery, except to people who deny, deny, deny, and distort. If you think pharma corporations want you to be healthy and evolved, guess again.

      Everyone has repressions festering within them. There is a process to releasing them, recovering the lost memories, and healing.

      The five natural emotions:

  • francois

    Okay… so at the very least, this short ‘piece’ opens the door for further speculation into the realms of “Depression” by inferring that our trusted pharmaceutical guardians may not be on the up and up. Go figure.

    Let me throw some wild-ass ideas onto the table… as long as nobody knows WTF is up. So, what exactly IS depression if everything is energy? And if ALL energies are allegedly conscious- as my inner-tutelage has revealed (which is in concert with Gnostic experience) then ‘who’ is this Being called and experienced as “depression”? Let’s use our imagination for a moment (to let our rational ones off the hook) and say depression has a personality like you and i do similar to us as ego-personas. Still with me? 🙂

    Energy work relating to the hidden realms of consciousness is undoubtedly expanding- and likely many of us are beginning to sense and/or experience (versus our thinking) these most-subtle realms hidden in our pure-energy body-fields. What if i proposed that our Entire field- visible and invisible- is imbued with multiple ‘Beings’ of independent consciousness that band together through Fear (another character) to manifest themselves as Depression that include other fear expressions such as hate, anger, rage, shame, guilt, blame, ad nauseam? Remember, we’re using our imagination simply to receive this contemplation without buying it.

    Because this article could use some spice, let me also share what this conscious Being of Depression has come to be in my personal experience relative to inner-healing. Yep, it’s a bit wild… though in Jacques Ives Leloup’s versions of two Gnostic gospels (gospels of philip and mary magdalene- respectively) this concept of interacting with literal conscious energies is well-documented.

    This little ‘i’ (without fanfare) has spoken to Depression directly… as i would anyone’s energetic field. How? Through the universal language of the Breath corridors which is what these fear-based Beings ‘speak.’ Even love speaks through the Silence of this magical breath vehicle. i know, i know… but at least let me finish what i started before “insanity” is declared- though i prefer lunatic.

    Breath allows ‘feelings’ to be interpreted as language which was the medium Depression used to converse with ‘me.’ And boy… did this troubled one have a bunch to say as its designs revealed a diverse group of Beings who had come together to form its expression. To mention some in this mythological cocktail, the Beings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, self-hatred, self-judgment, etc, etc, also spoke to me independently to share their painful stories of creation- and how long… they have languished in these prisons. We all cried as they told their stories which included the discovery of a few humans waking up enough to sense them. Sobbing, they all told me they could not believe that someone or something had come for them… And we sobbed a bunch more.

    i shared with them that ‘i’ was taught how to use the Breath to discover their presence (in our field) which the mind was not designed to detect. And as taught to me by another consciousness using the name of Yeshua (another renegade who loves humour!) i taught these Beings to breathe with me in order to leave their mental (psychic) corridors and return to their original designs as perfect lifeforce ready to serve Love in yet another way. i offered these Beings pure acceptance through the Breath- literally willing to feel their difficult experience that allowed them to breathe into the heart housed in the body-vehicle we were sharing. And guess what? No fingers or toes lost in accepting these Fear-based brothers and sisters. As taught, this transformed their illusory fear experience into one of neutrality and ultimately back to love’s embrace.

    Did i experience their ruthless cocktail of Depression? Yes, absolutely, to its fullest… in hopelessness- though in constant breath-acceptance which prevented overwhelm prior to their full and ‘permanent’ transformation. Does Depression reside in ‘my’ field…? Not possible… they’ve all gone home.

    This is how Fear is transformed permanently in these fields of consciousness we call our body-vehicle. Every other practice no matter how noble or established, ‘transcends’ fear temporarily… (stuffs it in a mental compartment and calls it gone) which many yet fail to recognize as rejection; something that is extremely painful to these Beings- and something which incites auto-rage in their experience. They can’t help it.

    The Breath is a divine tool which becomes magical when Acceptance is connected to its experience. In my inner-worlds, the Breath is supremely conscious… and through an imaginary relationship with it, its will awaken the inner-awareness (us) that allows observation and instruction for our mental-ones to ‘follow’ the power in our imaginations. And a non-self is revealed- but that is another insanity to be revealed in this fable.

    To those reading this, may i suggest you remain aware of your breathing (keeping it deep and steady) in order to ‘feel’ the rumblings in your body. The hidden ones i speak of will be reacting; your mind will tell you it was that cheeseburger you ate yesterday… Breathe and welcome these sensations, and they will increase until they complete themselves- and you will never be the same being. 🙂 To the others whose timing has not yet manifested, call me a lunatic or anything you like and be done with it. That too is healing and i take no offense. Afterall, this is pure contemplation.

    Welcome to the wildness that sources Love! heeheehee.

    Blessings, my fellow humanity- and All other Beings in our cosmos who monitor our ‘progress.’

    • Patrick S.

      Your idea seems exceedingly fresh and resonant as far as I’m concerned. Thanks. Funny that I just embarked on learning about the gnostic gospels and breathing techniques such as sudarshan kriya.


      • francois

        Hello Patrick,

        Very cool to hear that you are being called to explore the Breath- as well as Gnostic traditions that hint at their encounters stemming from conscious relationship with It. As is likely obvious, this wild stuff with its inner-work is not designed for all seekers, for there are so many other callings equally serving that i suspect are in alignment- in terms of pulling this spiritual odyssey into maturity. Those called into this (specific) type of examination are likely awakening to wondrous inner-guidance that grows our capacity to sense the most-subtle realms of consciousness. Here is a little tickler as example, if i may…

        When the powers operating through the shadow worlds send an energetic ‘attack’ to your (energetic) field which will occur as you grow in their detection, you will come to easily liberate the consciousness in their caustic cocktails by communicating with the specific energies involved… And strange as this sounds, they will mutiny and free themselves because you taught them how to. Eventually the thinning of their ranks alarms them and your energetic ‘signature’ becomes persona-non-grata with a warning to stay away from your ‘dangerous’ field. heeheehee.

        And here’s another, just because i can’t help it in this moment: The supremely conscious ‘Breath’ will teach you how to dissect (as well) ALL forms of so-called pathological illness by feeling and communicating with each energy brought together in whatever illness-cocktail arrives, i. e. fever, cold, bronchitis, cancer, etc, etc.- for our bodies are pure, conscious energy. And by accepting its symptoms with breath focus (and courage in the initial stages) you will come to never, ever be ill again; it is pure illusion in this hidden macrocosmic land of Love! 🙂 And of course ‘death’ and its illusion will also be illumined by the internal ‘experience’ of eternity.

        In the gospel of philip (by Leloup), philip offers that the powers (in darkness) “…are blinded by the Breath- though they believe they control it.” These shadow types operate and dominate (only) in the psychic-mental corridors which is where our vulnerable ego-minds and their ‘thinking’ maneuver- and where they unknowingly remain subjugated. This mental realm is where our identities lie as us… until observation through breath awakens this fantasy. Like Eckhart Tolle offers in The Power of Now, “look up at your mind and observe it for the next thought”; “who is doing the observing?” he brilliantly asks. Incidentally, this is why telepathy, for example, might not be such a good idea.

        Eventually your breath-consciousness will see/sense them (archons included), and they will not see you or understand your new language that will come to aid many.

        A final note: ‘i’ hesitated to scribble about these inner-worlds during my post above- but these rascals with greater awareness flowing through this francios-vehicle, gently reminded ‘me’ of my service and to step aside and learn. i like living in Silence but on occasion (especially in this budding writer’s forum), the Silence -evidently- is desiring to express its wilder motifs onto the public forum. What is a non-self scribe to do?

        Blessings, Patrick. Likely we will circle around when our timing is at hand.

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