Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Black Day for Anti-Depressants

(cc) Douglas CooteyThe FDA has mandated that antidepressant prescriptions feature a black label to warn consumers aged 18 to 24 of possible suicidal tendencies when first taking these drugs. This is a follow up to their 2005 ruling where labels were required to warn of this same suicidal effect on children and adolescents. Of course, many psychiatrists are concerned that people in need will be scared away by these labels. This concern was even reflected in the FDA's announcement. However, the cynic in me wonders if these psychiatrists I've seen quoted in various articles concerning this new mandate are really concerned for people's wellfare. It has been reported that there was a drop in patients under 17 when the first warning labels were mandated in 2005. Gee, I wonder why people would be concerned that expensive medications might have a fatal side-effect for their children? I won't speak for all psychiatrists, but many require patients to have the utmost faith in pharmacology and their services. It can be very lucrative for them. Beyond the steady stream of billable hours, Big Pharm offers financial incentives for doctors and psychiatrists to get patients to try new medications. Doctors I know see this as a win-win situation. They get a chunk of cash in their pocket and people like me get cutting edge help.

The big problem with that scenario is, of course, that the doctors aren't the ones taking the medications or dealing with the side-effects. As a person begins to take antidepressants, chemical changes begin to occur in their brain, often centered around the neurotransmitter, seratonin. Simply put, the "magic" behind antidepressants is the inhibiting of seratonin reuptake. This allows for increased levels of seratonin in the neurosynapses which should equate to happier patients. However, there is a chance when going on these meds that the brain becomes unbalanced as it struggles to cope with the new changes. It is during this period that people can become agitated and, actually, seratonin deprived. This is the side-effect that is suspected to cause suicidal tendencies.

Until now, these people were considered aberrations and predisposed towards suicide to begin with. After extensive testing, however, the FDA has determined that these cases are not as uncommon as Big Pharma would have us believe. Why this testing wasn't done before is a question left on many people's minds. On one hand, early and overoptimistic marketing of these antidepressants has led to deaths. On the other hand, people clamor for speedier testing so that they can get their hands on new treatments for their loved ones. There does not seem to be an easy solution to this dilemma for the present.

Still, I wonder how much greed has to play in this tragedy. Depending on the studies I've read, either one third or one half of people given antidepressants do not respond and find no relief for their depression. How many of these people end up bouncing from one med to another trying to find happiness while mistaking side-effects as the efficacy of the drug at work? Other studies have found that antidepressants have had no more affect than placebos. What does that tell you? It tells me that people thought the "drug" would help them, and they experienced happier moods. Thought alone led to a reduction of stress levels and a more harmonious balance of chemicals in the brain. Mind over mood.

In light of the evidence showing a link between antidepressants and suicide, I would recommend that all who read this blog look first into cognitive behavior therapy and other alternative therapies before latching desperately onto the pharmaceutical roulette wheel of chance. Some side-effects last a lifetime. Others end a life.

I love to read your comments so please speak up below. Registration is not necessary. You can even post anonymously.