Pills
Pills (was it obvious?)

Antidepressants are drugs developed to suppress the symptoms of depression (too obvious?)

There are two main causes of depression that are treated by antidepressants; if the person has low serotonin levels they are mostly treated with SSRI’s; selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors to increase this level. Serotonin is important to brain activity because it is a neurotransmitter and so sends signals between neurons and although scientists are still unsure of why, especially since the level of serotonin can only be monitored in the bloodstream currently and not the brain, the site of neurological activity. Because of this uncertainty, it is unknown why serotonin relieves the symptoms of depression (for example being compulsive, feeling continuously low or helpless, having low self esteem, feeling irritant/ intolerable) but the idea is that once a neurotransmitter has sent its neural impulse it is generally reabsorbed. SSRIs inhibit the re-absorption of serotonin neurotransmitters and so increase the levels in the synapse of the nerves in the brain, and therefore elevate mood. Mood altering drugs such as Ecstasy and LSD cause a rise in serotonin levels which also provides an explanation for the elation. Norepinephrine works in a similar way to serotonin.

However, there are other causes of depression other than low serotonin or norepinphrine levels and therefore, people suffering from clinical depression usually go into a period of trying each drug treatment to determine what is causing their depression. People with low dopamine levels could suffer from losing their train of thought or memory or have slow reaction times. They could also experience anhedonia which is when you lack the ability to feel pleasure. However, pharmaceutical companies do not produce as many drug treatments for dopamine dependant depression as serotonin dependant but psychostimulants can be used.

There can also be depression caused by alcohol, drugs, loneliness, giving birth, family history, personality, a freak accident or illness.

My enquiry, after understanding this information, is to ask whether drugs are the right way forward for treating, not just depression but illness in general is the right way forward. This idea revolves around the side effects of these drugs and how they are almost washed over as if they do not exist. For example: drowsiness, nausea, dry mouth, insomnia, diarrhoea, nervousness, agitation or restlessness, dizziness, sexual problems, such as reduced sexual desire or erectile dysfunction, headaches and blurred vision which are side effects caused by SSRI’s. This drug being a treatment for someone who has sometimes compulsive or obsessive symptoms, feeling low and being irritable, the fact that the drug available to treat them comes with so many negatives, one of them being irritability which is a symptom trying to be treated. Also, anti-depressants do not get to the root of the problem, in fact, studies show that 1 in 5 people on anti-depressants feel worse than they did on the placebo and of course, this may be because of the placebo effect but I feel that the proposed 20% of ‘negative’ responses in a medical test should be enough for drugs to be retested before being pushed onto the public as it seems they are today.

The fact is, it seems like the only way to suppress symptoms or go through a period of depression is it is not a lifelong disorder is to have medicine prescribed but Dr Lissa Rankin proposes that the patient and doctor should first get to the route of what is causing the depression which would avoid the long period of the person trying different drugs would be shortened. Exercise is also a good form of treatment, especially forms of exercise that shock the body into a stress response like swimming in ice cold water which, after a few minutes sends waves of euphoria through the body. People can also eat regularly since blood sugar helps to control mood swings and eat a serotonin rich diet like eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids or avoid caffeine which reduces these serotonin levels. There is also the option of seeing a psychiatrist or therapist to talk, which although would be a challenge because some individuals with depression don’t want to speak as symptoms include being ‘antisocial’ but maybe a consultation is better than the long list of side-effects and risks of the drugs prescribed.

A new study that I recently read gives evidence that some antidepressants can take weeks or months to start working. For example, SSRI’s take up to two months to reduce somebody’s symptoms because there is a delayed drug response involved in signalling molecules in nerve-cell membrane called –proteins despite the fact that the antidepressants bind to their targets within a few minutes.

Overall, I think that drugs prescribed to individuals with depression can be good but I also think that before the pills are brought out, other treatments that are nit drug reliant should be tested. The fact is, drugs don’t always work and the side-effects of some can end in death and many of those who take anti-depressants do find themselves feeling ill and in some cases worse than before. Patients are told that this feeling is normal and is the cost for being able to ‘function’ like everyone else; however, I personally think that allowing the person to be the best of who they are rather than the being like the rest of society. I feel like because the amount of drugs prescribed to people with depression cannot always be monitored unless they are under constant care and maybe not even if they are being cared for, busy hospitals and clinics make it easier to just give patients pills than to analyse if there is any change.  I think that as more is found out about how these drugs work, I will truly be able to decide whether antidepressants are the way forward or not, but for now, the side-effects seem to be glazed over and some stories that I’ve heard from sufferers makes the system seem a little bit like a guessing game and that is not how healthcare should be delivered in my opinion.

What do you think about antidepressants, and medical drugs in general? Let me know in the comments below!

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