Antidepressant drugs have become a big business, the promotion of depression
as an illness, treatable with drugs has become a scandalous enterprise with
little merit. Antidepressants were a hard sell until recently. Although many
drugs in this class modified the behavior of patients, their slow action and
many side effects were negative features.
The introduction of a “new class” of antidepressants that increase serotonin
activity, led by Prozac changed the market for psychotropic drugs. The effects
of Prozac on “personality” were widely publicized and drug companies advertise
indirectly and, more recently directly to the consumer, relegating physicians to
the role of middleman. The patient now demands the prescription and the doctor
complies. The consumer hopes that Prozac and related drugs can increase energy,
confidence and assertiveness. “Shy” people were added to list of potential
customers. Although writers such as psychiatrist Peter Kramer (Listening to
Prozac) suggested that the patient's interest in personality changing drugs was
a new market force, nothing new really happened; it is the same old interest in
psychotropic drugs but the names, the players and the prices changed. Cocaine
outsells Prozac, but the profitability of prescription antidepressant drugs is
outstanding. In Canada, three similar antidepressants were among the top-selling
drugs; these are Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft..
Lauren Slater call Prozac the "Big Mac of Medicine" because of its popularity
and the faddish consumer appeal based on the futile hope that a drug could
resolve human suffering. She described the dramatic and brief benefits of taking
Prozac: "those first few mornings were fairy tales, tall tales, replete with all
the bent beauty of a New World." Her story is not simple, however and the
long-term effects of taking the drug are mixture of benefits and negative
effects. The initial recovery from depression is not sustained and a three or
four phase sequence can often be discerned, beginning with an initial
improvement that occurs in the first 2 to 4 weeks. The statement “the first time
was the best time" applies to most, if not to all psychotropic drugs.
In Slater's experience, Prozac removed her sexual drive, blunted her
creativity and reduced her appetite. The underlying problems are many and begin
with the lack of specificity of the drug. Prozac blocks Serotonin re-uptake and
in stage 1 of its activity, probably increases serotonin receptor activity in
all areas of the brain. Serotonin synapses are not all conveniently arranged
just to alleviate depression and a whole complex of unrelated functions are
affected. The brain is not passive and changes to offset or accommodate the drug
activity; the effects then shift to an adapted state, different from the initial
drug-dependent state. The person taking the drug has also shifted in terms of
behavior and learning and may be learning new skills and, at the same time,
coping with new problems such increased anger, loss of libido and blunted
Goodman, Chair of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee made a public statement in 2006
that claims in drug monographs and advertising that selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants work by normalizing serotonin levels are not
based on scientific evidence and should be prohibited Moynihan and Cassels
described the drug industry's marketing tactics. "With obscene profits from drug
sales; a drug company can afford to control the naming and perception of
diseases by physicians, government, and consumers. They create drug demand by
advertising to consumers and doctors at the same time. For example, Cohn & Wolfe
Healthcare, SmithKline's PR firm created “social phobia disorder” treatable with
Paxil, which became the world's best-selling antidepressant, earning US$3
Antidepressants are chemicals that are added to a dysfunctional chemical mix
that caused dysfunction and dysphoria in the first place. Few patients make any
effort to alter their disease-causing lifestyle and few physicians make any
effort to investigate and improve the patient’s chemistry overall Prozac is
added, mindlessly to the dysfunctional chemical mix and its effects merge with
other drugs, coffee, alcohol, the chemistry of food and contaminants, sugars,
food allergy and airborne neurotoxins that act on the brain.
New problems added by the prescription chemical may suddenly emerge such as
unexpected bursts of anger and aggression or increased tendency to have violent
suicidal thoughts. One young woman reported to me that after taking Prozac for
two weeks, she had threatened her live-in boyfriend with hammer, chased him into
the bathroom and attacked the closed door, smashing holes in the door until she
more or less recovered composure. Her boyfriend fled the apartment and never
returned. The boyfriend was domineering and verbally abusive, as boyfriends
sometimes are, but the pre-Prozac young woman was compliant and never had a
violent temper. Her Prozac rage is an example of chemically triggered behavior.
Prozac may provoke agitated preoccupation with suicide or violence directed
against others. The drug facilitates the rage response, as do most of the drugs
that suppress appetite. Up to 73% of patients taking antidepressant report
sexual dysfunction, such as diminished sexual desire, delayed sexual arousal,
and muted or absent orgasm.
Fisher suggests that these drugs blunt emotions and interfere with forming
and maintaining meaningful relationships. When men and women take
serotonin-enhancing drugs and fail to achieve orgasm, an important feature of
pair bonding fails. You would not be surprised to learn that a woman taking
Prozac decided to divorce her husband, stating that she no longer loved him.
After she stopped the drug, she loved him again and stayed married.
Mind Alteration on Prescription
Brain Drug Warnings
Psychiatry versus Biology
Food Allergy and the Brain
Children and Antidepressants
Colin Meek. SSRI ads questioned. CMAJ • March 14, 2006; 174 (6)
Moynihan and Alan Cassels. Selling sickness: How the world's biggest
pharmaceutical companies are turning us all into patients: Greystone Books, 2006
Toronto; ISBN 1-55365-131-6
Fisher, H.E. Do Sexual Side Effects of Most
Antidepressants Jeopardize Romantic Love and Marriage? Sex, Sexuality, and
Many of the symptoms included under the title of “depression” are typical of
common food-related diseases including diabetes, atherosclerosis, malnutrition,
hormonal dysfunction and delayed pattern food allergy. All these problems
require diet revision. We suggest that a prudent person suffering depression and
body symptoms would be wise to pursue vigorous, thorough diet revision at the
earliest opportunity. Because some brain dysfunction compromises judgment
learning and motivation, family members, friends and professional advisors often
have to provide the right direction and support.
- You are viewing the Brain Mind Center at Alpha Online, a Division of
Environmed Research, founded in 1984 at Vancouver, BC, Canada. Online Since
1995. Alpha Nutrition is a trademark and a division of Environmed Research Inc. Understanding the human brain is essential to become a well-informed, modern
citizen. Stephen Gislason MD, the author of
the Human Brain, is a physician-writer who is good at making complex subjects more
understandable. This is a book with important ideas, so be prepared to read
and then keep the book as reference.
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