Thursday, June 16, 2011

Prozac on the Rocks

Just yesterday I was commenting on David Eagleman’s new book about the power of cognitive neuroscience. I objected to the assumption that it’s all in the brain, and thus, I entitled my post: mindlessness.

I took special offense at Eagleman’s glib assertion that depression was easily cured by the administration of the right kind of medication.

Eagleman’s gross oversimplifications, both of the way depression has been treated and the effectiveness of anti-depressant medication, cast doubt on many of his assertions.

As happenstance would have it, after I posted my comments I came across an interesting report on the latest research into the effectiveness of anti-depressants.

Written by Casey Schwartz for The Daily Beast, the report suggests that anti-depressants, when they do work, which is certainly not all of the time, only work for a short period of time. Link here.

People who take anti-depressants for a long period of time are more likely to relapse, and more likely to see their medication lose its effectiveness.

Researcher Giovanni Fava blames the fact that the psychiatric profession has failed to see that people are more than their biochemistry. Failing to deal with the mind dooms even the most potent anti-depressant to failure.

Schwartz summarizes the point: “In the meantime, Fava asks, why is it that so many psychiatrists are incredulous that successfully treating depression should involve not only the right pill but also the appropriate change in thinking? And a shift in how we proceed through our daily lives? When it comes to cardiovascular health, cholesterol levels, or diabetes, doctors emphasize lifestyle changes as well as prescription pills, Fava points out. Yet, he says, ‘psychiatrists are pretty alone in the medical literature having faith only in drugs, and not in changing the attitude of the patients’."

Let’s place special emphasis on the point about lifestyle changes. More and more research is showing that aerobic exercise and good nutrition produce great benefits for people who are depressed, and even for people who are not depressed.

Why is it that psychiatrists are alone in trying to rely solely on pills? Good question, for another day.

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