Monday, July 19, 2010

"Should I Take Antidepressants?"

 Bill Maher on Prozac:

Everyone is Doing It!

For the first time in history, more than half of Americans are on chronic prescription medications (Link). Is this a good sign or a bad sign? Could it have to do with our diets?

"In his new book How Everyone Became Depressed: The Rise and Fall of the Nervous Breakdown, the University of Toronto psychiatrist and historian Edward Shorter takes aim at the what he sees as the massive overdiagnosis of depression in America. Something like a third of Americans think they are depressed in a given month, but we know, writes Shorter, 'that only 3% of the population is chronically sad.' It’s a dangerous state of affairs 'which means that poorly diagnosed patients are denied the benefit of proper treatment while being exposed to all of the side effects of classes of medication, such as the Prozac-style drugs, that are ineffective for serious illness" (Link).

My Experience

I have some personal experience with this as I was was wrestling with depression and decided to take different SSRI's over a 2-3 year period during my early 20's. While the antidepressant initially helped, I eventually found myself becoming more depressed over time, even more depressed than I was before I started taking the medication. During this time, the FDA came out with a breaking new statement about antidepressants, stating that they can potentially lead to "...increased risks of suicidal thinking and behavior, known as suicidality, in young adults ages 18 to 24 during initial treatment..." (link). This news confirmed that the life-threatening side effects that I experienced were not limited to just me.

From this moment on, I decided it would be beneficial actually research the medications I was being prescribed, and I found that Paxil’s known “adverse drug reactions” – according to the drug’s FDA-approved label – can include “mania,” “insomnia,” “anxiety,” “agitation,” “confusion,” “amnesia,” “depression,” “paranoid reaction,” “psychosis,” “hostility,” “delirium,” “hallucinations,” “abnormal thinking,” “depersonalization” and “lack of emotion,” among others (Link).  I began to wonder what other life-threatening side effects they might not yet know about...

Note - Please contact your physician before quitting any medications. Ask him or her for medical advice.

After gradually weaning myself off of the medications, I decided to try and make some changes to my life. These changes, for me, brought about some of the positive results I was looking for. First of all, I began taking essential vitamins and nutrients in supplement form, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, and Omega 3 essential fatty acids. This proved to be extremely beneficial for me, revealing that I had specific deficiencies that were greatly contributing to my anxiety and depression. For example, there has been much medical research to prove that vitamin D and Omega 3 deficiencies can lead to anxiety and depression (Link) (link). Despite this, my doctor did not ask about my vitamin D levels or even perform a blood test before prescribing Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro or Zoloft, and then wanting to double the dosages after having not worked effectively! Sadly, I believe that this is standard procedure within today's medical community. (Note: for a list of essential vitamins that fight and reduce stress and depression, Click Here)


"Let your food be your medicine 
and your medicine be your food."
- Hippocrates, the father of medicine

Second, I found tremendous help eating a diet that is high in raw, whole foods. For undeniable proof that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables can help prevent and decrease depression and anxiety, check out these studies HERE. For sample meal plans, click HERE.

Lastly, I found some help in occasional use of herbal and homeopathic supplements such as Bach Flower Remedies. For more info on flower remedies, check out my post HERE. Other herbal supplements such as Chamomile, Kava Kava and 5htp can prove helpful. These herbs are all available on or at your local health food store.

I do not intend to come off as completely "anti-medication". Yet I do believe that medications are sometimes prescribed too early before trying other routes. My problem is when doctors prescribe a cocktail of five or six different medications to "balance" out the side effects of each other, before even addressing any deficiencies! While I think that most people in the health system have good intentions, there is also money to be made. As a result,  I believe that many drug companies are more concerned with gaining financial wealth than helping people. And since a lot of the medications that are prescribed are new and therefore relatively untested, I think a healthy dose of skepticism may be just what the doctor ordered.


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