Psychiatrists have known for years that low serotonin levels cannot cause depression, despite continuing to prescribe the pills, according to a psychology professor.
dr. Jonathan Raskin, who is also a psychotherapist at the State University of New York, told DailyMail.com that he was concerned that the theory that depression was caused by low serotonin levels was “incomplete” for a while.
But he said many medics continued to prescribe the medication, even if they weren’t sure if they were effective, because it was “easier” than providing more time-intensive care.
The pills may still help some patients, he added, but they are not a panacea for people suffering from depression.
This week, a landmark UK study questioned society’s growing reliance on antidepressants like Prozac.
In the $15 billion-a-year industry — which will grow to $21 billion in the next decade — patients are prescribed pills like Prozac with the promise that they will cure people’s depression by increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. , increase.
But after reviewing 17 large studies, scientists at University College London said they had found no convincing evidence that a lack of this chemical caused the condition.
dr. Jonathan Raskin, a psychology professor at the State University of New York in New Paltz, said many experts feared the theory was “incomplete.”
Researchers from University College London said a review of evidence found no link between low serotonin levels and depression, raising doubts about antidepressants designed to increase levels of the ‘feel good’ chemical. But other experts have expressed doubts about the findings
About 13 percent of American adults take antidepressants each year, figures show.
But the rates are much higher in women, with up to 18 percent taking medications each year.
When asked whether low serotonin levels caused depression, Raskin said, “I think most mental health professionals familiar with the research have known for some time that the serotonin theory of depression is incomplete and has mixed research support.
‘Depression is a complicated problem, and the idea that we could reduce it to serotonin is wrong.
“When we give antidepressants, we don’t do it based on biological tests that show they don’t have enough serotonin, but if we think it might help them.”
When asked whether people should continue to take the pills, he said, “I think this is worth talking about.
“I’m not going to say people should or shouldn’t be using them, but I think there’s been a lot of popular spread of the idea that we’ve reduced depression to low serotonin levels.
“Antidepressants sometimes have some effect on some people, but I don’t think they’re a panacea.”
WHAT IS DEPRESSION? SYMTOMS AND CAUSES
While it’s normal to feel down from time to time, people with depression can feel persistently unhappy for weeks or months.
Depression can affect anyone at any age and is quite common – about one in ten people are likely to experience it at some point in their lives.
Depression is a real health condition that people can’t just ignore or ‘get out’.
Symptoms and effects vary, but may include feeling constantly upset, hopeless, or losing interest in things you used to enjoy.
It can also cause physical symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, fatigue, a low appetite or sex drive, and even feeling physical pain.
In extreme cases, it can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Traumatic events can cause it, and people with a family history may be more at risk.
It’s important to see a doctor if you think you or someone you know has depression, as it can be treated with lifestyle changes, therapy, or medication.
Source: NHS Choices
He added: ‘They are easier to prescribe and give to people than more time-intensive things like psychotherapy.
“So they can be offered to people, while other solutions are equally or more effective.”
An academic involved in the UK study described the findings as ‘eye-opening’, and that ‘everything I thought I knew has been turned upside down’.
Lead author Professor Joanna Moncrieff, a psychiatrist, said: ‘The popularity of the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory has coincided with a huge increase in the use of antidepressants.
“Thousands suffer from side effects of antidepressants, including severe withdrawal symptoms that can occur when people try to stop them, but the number of prescription drugs continues to rise.
Serotonin contributes to the transmission of signals in the brain and is said to have a positive influence on mood, emotion and sleep.
They are preferred over other types of antidepressants because they cause fewer side effects. Even so, patients who use them may still experience anxiety, diarrhea, dizziness, and blurred vision.
Depressed patients can also be afflicted with crippling withdrawal symptoms when trying to come off the pills.
At the same time, numerous studies have suggested that they work no better than a placebo.
The UCL study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, analyzed 17 previous reviews from 2010 and consisted of dozens of individual studies.
It doesn’t prove that SSRIs don’t work. However, it does suggest that the drugs do not treat depression by fixing abnormally low serotonin levels.
SSRIs have no other proven way of working, Professor Moncrieff and colleagues said.
She added: ‘We can safely say that after a huge body of research spanning several decades, there is no convincing evidence that depression is caused by serotonin abnormalities, particularly lower levels or decreased activity of serotonin.
‘We don’t understand exactly what antidepressants do to the brain.
“Giving people this kind of misinformation prevents them from making an informed decision about whether or not to take antidepressants.”
The studies used in the review involved hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.
They found that there was no difference in serotonin levels between people diagnosed with depression and healthy people, despite polls suggesting 95 percent of the public believe this to be the case.
Artificially lowering serotonin levels in healthy volunteers also did not lead to the development of depression.