Saturday, March 01, 2008

Winning The War Against Depression

Everybody gets the blues now and then. President Abraham Lincoln suffered with and fought depression throughout his lifetime. However, his ability to cope with whatever depression afflicted him, especially late in life, was enormous. Using various means.... work, humor, fatalistic resignation, or even religious feelings... he generally did not allow the depression or melancholy to interfere with his work as President. He overcame this depressive aspect of his personality with a powerful inner strength and will. He once said:

"Remember in the depth and even the agony
of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again."
There are indications Lincoln took a medication for his hypochondriasis (depression) called blue mass. This was a commonly prescribed medication in the 19th century for ailments such as apoplexy, worms, tuberculosis, toothaches, constipation, and hypochondriasis (depression). Blue mass contained mercury and can lead to the neurobehavioral consequences of mercury poisoning. John Stuart said that Lincoln took blue mass "before he went to Washington and for five months while he was President."

Now, in the 21st century, we use Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These would include drugs like Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Luvox (fluvoxamine) and Celaxa (citalopram). Doctors and Psychiatrists hand them out like candy. Over 23.1 million prescriptions for different forms of fluoxetine (Prozac) were filled in the United States in 2006. This makes it the third most prescribed antidepressant. The most prescribed is sertraline (Zoloft) and the second is Escitalopram (Lexapro) which is also an SSRI. Escitalopram is the S-stereoisomer (enantiomer) of the earlier Lundbeck drug citalopram (Celexa), hence the name escitalopram.

One of the things you should know about Prozac and other SSRI's is that it could take a whole month for the full benefits of the drug to take effect. Another thing you should know is that recent studies have led scientists to discover that taking SSRI's for depression might not be any better than if you took a placebo. In other words, you might be just as likely to get better by taking a sugar pill.
A paper published in the journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) Medicine last month looked at the trial results of fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Seroxat), venlafaxine (Effexor) and nefazodone (Serzone). "Using complete data sets (including unpublished data) and a substantially larger data set of this type than has been previously reported, we find the overall effect of new-generation antidepressant medication is below recommended criteria for clinical significance," they write.

After using the freedom of information rules, they obtained all of the data that was used in the clinical trials done by the drug companies. If you are a doctor, these are the ones your drug rep did not tell you about. They show the true and whole picture of the drugs effectiveness. The exception to the rule was that these drugs did seem to have a significant effect on those who were severely depressed. For every one else, it was no more effective than a placebo. Here is the article that references that study:

Prozac, used by 40m people, does not work say scientists

Now, let's look at some of the side effects of Prozac and the others. Make sure you ask your doctor or psychiatrist about these.

Gwen Olsen, a former pharmaceutical industry representative, told an FDA panel that she had influenced doctors by offering them free food, gifts and gimmicks to get access and then presented them with skillfully manipulated data. Olsen said she had a change of heart after her 20- year-old niece committed suicide following a withdrawal reaction from the antidepressant Paxil. She said her niece first tried to hang herself from a ceiling fan. When the fan broke, Olsen said, she doused herself in oil and set herself alight.

More than 1 million children and teens now receive SSRI prescriptions, estimates Julie Magno Zito, a psychiatric drug expert at the University of Maryland.

In May 1984, Germany’s regulatory agency (Bundesgesundheitsamt, BGA) rejected Prozac as “totally unsuitable for treating depression.” In July 1985, Eli Lilly’s own data analysis—from a pool of 1,427 patients—showed high incidence of adverse drug effects and evidence of drug-induced violence in some patients.

Remember the tragedy of the Columbine High School masacre? The shooter, Eric Harris, was taking Zoloft before he switched to Luvox. Three experts testified that Eric showed symptoms of being "Bipolar." According to the Physicians Desk Reference, antidepressants can induce mania & psychosis, especially in people who are 'bipolar'.

A few weeks ago, we also had a shooting in Illinois where a former student opened fire on and killed 6 people (including himself) at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Steve Kazmierczak was not a monster, according to friends. He was kind and gentle. He had stopped taking Prozac a few weeks before the shooting spree. According to a friend, it "made him feel like a zombie."

So, what to do about depression? Why not try some other things before drugs enter into the picture. Why should they be the first thing that we try? Shouldn't they be the last thing after looking at how inneffective and dangerous they are?

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a variety of lifestyle, dietary and psychotherapeutic interventions have a much better record of success against depression than these drugs have ever had. Serious depression is a medical problem that in many cases demands serious pharmaceutical treatment, but patients with mild or moderate depression would be much better served trying a prudent mix of exercise, diet and cognitive therapy.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches kids to change self-defeating attitudes and behaviors. It is about as effective as Prozac. Drugs should be reserved for the most severely depressed, who need therapy, too.

  • Depressed people usually have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Have it checked by asking your doctor to do a D25-hydroxy test. Click here to check out my post on vitamin D

  • Gabriel Cousens, MD, in his very informative and helpful book, Depression-Free For Life: An All-Natural, 5-Step Plan to Reclaim Your Zest For Living, explained that chemicals called neurotransmitters relay nerve impulses throughout your body. These nerve impulses make up the communication system that your brain and nerves use to carry out many functions. (6)
    The neurotransmitters that seem to have the most impact on your moods are...
    noradrenaline (also called norepinephrine)
    gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA)

Your body produces these important chemicals from the nutrients you consume. Amino acids, vitamins, enzymes, minerals, fatty acids, proteins and carbohydrates are all needed.

  • Catherine Carrigan, in Healing Depression: A Holistic Guide, listed ten common dietary substances that are most likely to contribute to depression. These depression diet substances include...
    1. Anything moldy, malted, or fermented. 2. Anything processed. 3. Anything dried or aged.4. Anything made with sugar or honey.5. Anything made with yeast.6. Any meat raised with antibiotics or steroids.7. Leftovers unless frozen.8. Alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, chocolate, and colas.9. Food colorings, chemicals, preservatives, and additives.10. Tap water." (4, pp. 126-7)

  • If you have been diagnosed with atypical depression, you might greatly benefit from learning about a mineral called chromium picolinate. Dr. Malcom McLeod, in his book "Lifting Depression, The Chromium Connection," discovers by "accident" that a nutrient deficiency (Chromium) is at the root of a glucose metabolism problem "insulin resistance" that can lead to a suite of health symptoms (above) that include atypical depression. The book outlines how a simple supplementation with Chromium Picolinate at the right dosage along with excerise and diet changes, lead to dramatic and complete relief for many people in as little as 2 days. Dr. McLeod chronicles the story of this discovery as he experiences the joy and surprise of many of his patients as they encounter relief from depression (and much more). Most of them report a dramatic elevation in mood, increased energy, reduced cravings for carbohydrates and vivid color in their dreams. One patient (Sarah) found that chromium picolinate relieved almost all her symptoms of PMS. She said, "Chromium eliminates my irritability, depression, hyper-sensitivity to light and noise, craving for sweets, cramps, and I'm able to work and be around people." Another patient found that chromium reduced their craving for alcohol.

Other blog entries that talk about dealing with depression in a natural way:

Alternative Medicine Help for Seasonal Depression

Ten Ways to better Cope with Depression

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Recuperating from a broken relationship is one thing that takes a toll on most of the people. One very classic aftermath of a broken heart and a depressed mind especially for the boys is to seek solace in the company of alcohol. A broken heart, a depressed mind, and alcohol soaked physic usually go well, but in case you are going for anti depressants like xanax you better watch out! Antidepressants and alcohol do not gel well!