According to a new study, people with depression who use anti-depressants and then stop are more likely to relapse than those who use do not use any medication for their depressive symptoms. Paul Andrews, evolutionary psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University, led a study that found those who used anti-depressants were twice as likely to suffer another episode of depression in the future. The findings stir the already boiling pot of controversy over anti-depressant medication and depression. The researchers looked at several previous studies to reach their conclusions, which found that although people with depression who never took medication still had a 25 percent chance of relapsing, those who took medication and then stopped were 42 percent more likely to suffer another depressive episode. The researchers analyzed data from people who had been on anti-depressants and then placebos, people who were only on placebos and people who were only on anti-depressants.
Andrews notes that the brain self-regulates the production of serotonin and states that anti-depressants disrupt that natural regulation. He says, “We found that the more these drugs affect serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain – and that’s what they’re supposed to do – the greater risk of relapse once you stop taking them.” Andrews adds, “All these drugs do reduce symptoms, probably to some degree, in the short-term. The trick is what happens in the long term. Our results suggest that when you try to go off the drugs, depression will bounce back. This can leave people stuck in a cycle where they need to keep taking anti-depressants to prevent a return of symptoms.” He believes that depression may be a necessary mechanism the body uses to cope with stressful situations. Andrews adds, “There’s a lot of debate about whether or not depression is truly a disorder, as most clinicians and the majority of the psychiatric establishment believe, or whether it’s an evolved adaptation that does something useful.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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