Depression – Drug Therapy – Antidepressants – Q & A

Q. I am in my third year of being broke. It has been taking a toll on my emotional life. I have no energy to socialize with friends and family. It feels like self-pity – but I really think something more is going on here. I have been told to go on antidepressants but fear I will never get off them once I start – not to mention the cost of these kinds of drugs. I have recently hear reports doubting their effectiveness. What types of drug therapies are available?

A.  Going through life stressors such as financial hardship and serious legal trouble can cause us to experience significant levels of depression. Without getting help, depression can snowball into serious consequences for yourself and your family.

This article addresses the kinds of drug therapy available in the treatment of depression. It will also look at the recent criticism stemming from the overuse and dependency on them.

Growing Popularity Of Antidepressants

In 2012, is was estimated that 1 in 10 Americans, or 30 million people, use antidepressants every day, generating over $12 billion in annual sales for the pharmaceutical industry. Many now believe that antidepressants are one of the most over-prescribed medications in the country.

Even though drug therapy for the treatment of depression has been widely accepted by the overall medical community, it also has a growing number of respected critics.  While antidepressants have been shown to elevate ones mood and ease the sadness and hopelessness characteristic of a serious depressive disorder, the prolonged use of antidepressants is being shown to carry serious side effects and even its efficacy is now being called into question.

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Who Can Prescribe Antidepressants

Neither a psychologist nor a therapist such as a marriage or family counselor can prescribe antidepressants or for that matter any other type of controlled medication.

The legal authority to prescribe such medication requires a medical physician and particularly, a psychiatrist who is trained in both psychotherapy and medicine. Notwithstanding, many other types of physicians, including general medicine physicians without advanced training in psychotherapy have been known to regularly prescribe antidepressant to their patients on a regular basis.

Diagnosis Of Depression

Once you receive a diagnosis of clinical depression, the physician will usually discuss the different types of treatment options with you. You may find that some physicians are willing simply to write out a prescription for antidepressants without first referring you to a psychologist or other mental health professional for a clinical evaluation. Stay away from these types of physicians. Antidepressants are powerful drugs that alter your brain chemistry and can even lead to dependency.

Chemical Imbalance – Neurotransmitters

There are three neurochemical messengers usually associated with clinical depression. They are the neurotransmitters known as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitters are neurochemicals that send electrical signals between brain cells. Brain cells are called neurons and there are nearly one hundred billion of them in the adult human brain.

A neuron is the connection-driven electrically excitable cell that sends chemical signals from one part of the brain (usually through neuron clusters) to other parts at incredible speeds. Antidepressants are designed to affect the process of neurotransmission. It is believed that by modifying brain chemicals, antidepressants are able to elevate mood and decrease depression, though the exact ways it works is still not clearly known.

Three Major Categories Of Antidepressants:

The first major category of antidepressants is known as “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors” and includes the brand name medications we know as Zoloft, Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

The second category is known as “Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors” and includes brand drug names such as Cymbalta and Effexor.

The third category is “Tricyclic” and it includes the brand name antidepressants Elavil, Pamelor and Tofranil.

No Quick Fixes To Clinical Depression

There is no quick fix to the treatment of clinical depression. You physician must consider issues of dosage and may even have you try different antidepressants to determine which if any of these drugs may be effective for you. In most cases, depending on your medical history, other drugs you may be taking, and the dosage prescribed, it can take several weeks before you can judge the costs and benefits of the drug.

Antidepressants – Should Not Be A Substitute For Psychotherapy

Even in our quick-fix society, most experts will tell you that taking pills to make us feel good when we feel sad is not a long-term solution to these kinds of problems. Antidepressants are powerful drugs and they almost always come with side effects and prolonged use can result in long-term dependency.

Other approaches to battling depression should also be considered. They include increased physical activity, emotional support from friends and family, therapeutic counseling, and meditation.

Recent Criticism – Antidepressants No Better Then Taking A Placebo

Recent medical studies are seriously questioning the overall effectiveness of antidepressants claiming that antidepressants such as Zoloft are no better than taking a placebo for your depression. Worse still, major pharmaceutical companies are now being accused of having knowingly conducted flawed studies and biased clinical evaluations to support the continued sale of these drugs.

Critics of antidepressants also argue that the wide use of antidepressants and other psychiatric medications is unpredictably altering the brain chemistries of millions of people, and contributing to the epidemic of mental illness in the U.S.

No doubt, if you can improve your state of mind by engaging in healthy non-drug activities, try to do so before resorting to a regimen of drug therapy as your sole remedy for depression. Remember life is a transformative experience – it involves both pain and joy, neither one of which is a permanent experience. When life throws us trouble we can take some solace in the knowing that “this too will pass.”

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