health and wellness, major depressive disorder family and friends, Treatment for depression

Antidepressants: Can they all be considered medicine?

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What is medicine?

Definition of medicine

1 a : a substance or preparation used in treating disease

  • cough medicine

    b : something that affects well-being

  • he’s bad medicine
  • —Zane Grey

    2 a : the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease

  • She’s interested in a career in medicine.

    b : the branch of medicine concerned with the nonsurgical treatment of disease

    3 : a substance (such as a drug or potion) used to treat something other than disease

    4 : an object held in traditional American Indian belief to give control over natural or magical forces; also : magical power or a magical rite


    “Medicine.” Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/medicine. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

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    I respect the practice of medicine, as a matter of fact, I have considered a career in medicine since I was a child. It is my desire to make helping people a number one priority. Having said this. There are some areas and treatments used in medicine that I find to be confusing and downright harmful. Antidepressants affect me personally as I use them for treatment of depression. I trust my doctor and I believe the doctor is acting on training that she has received. There have been a few antidepressants prescribed to me that had ill effects that were so uncomfortable that I had to stop taking them. Seemingly a no-brainer to me is that if a drug is to be considered a medicine it shouldn’t cause harm.

    There have been many news articles and controversies surrounding the use of antidepressants. We see that many people who have committed violent crimes were taking antidepressants and many people are concerned about their detrimental effects. Was it the mental illness that caused these horrendous incidents or was it the drugs or a combination of both? I certainly don’t want to be taking a drug that has the potential to make me violent; this has never happened to me, but I have experienced the negative effects of certain drugs that were detrimental to my well being. My thought is that if a medicine causes harm, can it really be considered a medicine? E.g. Antidepressants that increase suicidal tendencies. Isn’t this a no-brainer that these kinds of drugs cannot be considered medicine? Depression causes suicidal thinking; a medicine should not affect a person trying to relieve the symptoms of depression, and certainly not intensify them. To me this is too risky and not worth any benefit(s) that the drug may produce.

    I am not a doctor and I don’t want to dissuade anyone from taking their prescribed drugs, but the last thing I expect from an antidepressant is to make me feel worse. I met a girl recently who had to stop taking the medicine because her anxiety and depression became worse for a few weeks when she started to take them. During my treatments over the past few years, I haven’t found the right combination or one antidepressant that has enabled me to function as I’d like to for more than a few months. Some people experience bouts of depression for a seemingly short time while others like myself suffer intense symptoms that are debilitating for years. Am I suffering for years because of not taking the right antidepressant for me? Why do some people suffer for a short time and others for longer? There isn’t a cure all type of antidepressant that works for everyone; why is this?


    Why don’t antidepressants work for everyone?

    People diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder each have differing intensities of symptoms, some more than others and scientists conclude it is because of a person’s genetics. The danger, says Dr. Marianne Müller is that people suffering intense depressive symptoms including suicidal tendencies don’t have enough time to try to find the right medicine that rids the person of suicidal thinking. Some people may commit suicide even though they are taking medicine for their depression. The presence or lack of transcription factor levels predicted with 76% accuracy how someone will respond to SSRIs (serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor). This high level of response data is not enough to develop new medicines. It is noted by another doctor not involved in this study, Dr. Victor Reus, that the HPA axis most likely contributes to depression, that is the body’s response to stress. Researchers are looking for genetic differences to explain why different types of antidepressants don’t work well for everybody diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

    It has been estimated that more than half of people prescribed antidepressants don’t feel better after taking them. It has been found that the makers of antidepressant have not made the medicine to get at the more complex causes, instead they have oversimplified the cause and as such the drugs only target these simplified areas. The two main beliefs factored into the making of antidepressants includes difficult life circumstances and an imbalance in neurotransmitters as the causes of major depressive disorder. Depression researcher Eva Redei has found inconclusive evidence that stress contributes to depression, while she notes that the drugs purpose is to relieve stress symptoms. As for the theory that depression is caused by decreased levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine she says that treatments aim at the effects, not the cause. Further research is necessary to determine what the cause is exactly.

    Another finding suggests that reducing the amount of autoreceptors may increase the positive effects of antidepressants. Autoreceptors are responsible for sending messages to the axon terminal deciphering how much of a neurotransmitter has been released. The higher the level of autoreceptors detected, the less effective antidepressants were shown to be.

    An obvious reason that antidepressants won’t work is because of a misdiagnosis. There are questions you should ask before commencing treatment to see if they are right for you:

  1. Is it depression causing pain?
  2. Are you willing to try different treatments for an extended period?
  3. Would antidepressants work best with another therapy such as counselling?
  4. Do you trust your doctor?

Basically, it’s best to realize that treatment may need to be ongoing and a matter of trial and error. Build a trusting relationship with your doctor and communicate about your concerns before taking an antidepressant. Know what to expect and be prepared for trying new medicines to alleviate your pain.

What to do when antidepressants don’t work effectively

If the antidepressants you have been prescribed aren’t helping you may have what is called treatment-resistant depression. It may be mild or severe. If you aren’t already seeing a mental health professional seek one out. They can determine what is contributing to your depressive episode(s) and what can be done about it while excluding other possible causes for your symptoms. Together you may find that you require more time to adjust to the medicine, you may need to increase the dose, or you may need to start taking a different type of antidepressant. This can be a frustrating time waiting for relief from this painful disorder. Reach out and talk about it with your doctor, a counselling phone line or someone you trust to get the support you need to help you through this time.

Other treatments are physical and include electroconvulsive therapy, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, and vagus nerve stimulation. In addition, there are other measures you can take to alleviate the symptoms of depression. Live a healthier lifestyle that includes the reduction of alcohol and drugs, eating a more nutritious diet, including exercise into your daily routine, and using stress reduction techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises and mindfulness.

I know from first hand experience about the difficulties faced when antidepressants don’t work. Reaching out to someone to talk about my experience has been helpful, but still caused me great concern when my mood was extremely low with no remedy. Taking pictures of nature was very calming and interesting during daily walks in the spring and summer. It is a frightening experience to suffer from despair and think about suicide daily; many people are speaking up about not having enough resources dedicated to helping people with mental health issues like major depressive disorder. Hopefully, soon enough we will have more options for remedy and relief for our painful symptoms of depression.

Leave a comment. Have you had an experience with antidepressants you want to mention?

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