Big Pharma may have made billions based on a lie about depression, new research suggests

New research from University College London calls into question whether the widespread prescription of antidepressants is really an effective way to treat depression.

A new paper published in Molecular Psychiatry examines the “serotonin hypothesis” of depression, which posits that major depressive disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be treated by regulating serotonin levels. The researchers concluded that the evidence supporting the serotonin hypothesis is not sufficient to establish a strong link between serotonin levels and depression.

“Many people take antidepressants because they have been led to believe that their depression has a biochemical cause, but this new research suggests that this belief is not based on evidence,” said the lead author. study, Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, according to The Guardian. “It’s always difficult to prove a negative result, but I think we can say with certainty that after much research over several decades, there is no convincing evidence that depression is caused by abnormalities in serotonin, in particular by lower levels or reduced activity of serotonin.

The research team reviewed 17 studies, including 12 systemic reviews and meta-analyses, and found that “no consistent evidence for an association between serotonin and depression, and no support for the hypothesis that depression is caused by reduced activity or levels of serotonin”.

Evidence has also shown that long-term use of antidepressants may be associated with lower serotonin levels. Moncrieff argued that the public should be informed that antidepressants may not be the ideal way to treat depression because of the side effects and withdrawal symptoms associated with the drugs. (RELATED: New Study Suggests Psychedelics Can ‘Free the Brain’ of People With Severe Depression)

Not all experts agree with the conclusion. “Antidepressants are an effective and Nice-recommended treatment for depression that can also be prescribed for a range of physical and mental health conditions,” a spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists said. “We would not recommend anyone to stop taking their antidepressants based on this review, and encourage anyone with concerns about their medication to contact their GP.”

Antidepressants are a big deal for pharmaceutical companies and their use has exploded in the United States since 1999, according to the Berkeley Political Review. One in six Americans take some form of antidepressant, NBC News reported.

The global antidepressant market was worth more than $26 billion in 2020, according to Business Wire.

Even if the serotonin hypothesis isn’t true, that doesn’t mean that antidepressants that target brain chemistry aren’t an effective way to treat depression, according to Dr. Michael Bloomfield, a psychiatrist at the University. College of London which did not participate in the research. “Many of us know that taking paracetamol can be helpful for headaches, and I don’t think anyone believes that headaches are caused by a lack of paracetamol in the brain,” he said. he told the Guardian. “The same logic applies to depression and the drugs used to treat depression.”

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