Antidepressants that work … and what doesn’t

Antidepressants … they seem to be a miracle for millions of people. But do they really work or is it the placebo effect? Well, new evidence leans toward them not actually having any effect at all.

One thing is for sure … these drugs are big business. About 10 percent of Americans now take a prescription antidepressant. And there’s been a whole lot of criticism of doctors and their rush to thrust antidepressants on us to boost mood.

Even experts question whether studies that allegedly show that they help your mood really demonstrate dependable results. The studies usually show that when people take a sugar pill that they believe is a drug (what’s called a placebo) it helps their depression about as much as a drug.

And researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine now say that the whole idea behind these drugs is flimsy and probably bogus.

Here’s the difficulty: The creation of most antidepressants on the market work on the theory that depression is caused by chemicals imbalance.” That somehow the neurotransmitters in your brain are not working right.

But in lab tests, Eva Redei of Northwestern found that antidepressants may treat stress but they don’t treat depression. And when antidepressants boost your level of neurotransmitters, they’re treating a result of depression – not the reason you’re depressed.

“The medications have been focusing on the effect, not the cause,” says Reidei. “That’s why it takes so long for them to work and why they aren’t effective for so many people.”

That’s why so many researchers say that you should use exercise as one of your basic defenses against emotional quandaries.

If you want to get at some of the root causes of depression, using psychotherapy to talk about your problematic emotions can help.

Before that, though, you should enable your body respond better to the dark side of depression. Dr. Michael Cutler recommends:

  • Exercise and yoga. Exercise can work wonders against depressive symptoms. It’s a basic part of my daily routine and helps me stay emotionally balanced and chipper. But don’t just take my word for it. A study at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, shows that exercise can drag people out of major depression.
  • Taking Hypericum extract (St. John’s wort) at 300mg three times daily.
  • Taking fenugreek to enhance the effects of St John’s Wort.
  • Supplementing with L-Tryptophan 1,500 mg to 3,000 mg twice daily between meals.
  • Taking 5-HTP (hydroxyl tryptophane): 100-250 mg twice daily.
  • Taking SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine) 400 to 800 mg twice daily, starting at low dose.
Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.