Have you seen the TV commercial? The one where the guy isn't getting results from one antidepressant, so he's taking two?
Doctors hand out these drugs like candy.
When I started my practice, this was pretty rare. By the 90s, everyone was on Prozac. Today, patients walk in on two or three antidepressants. And a lot of the times, they're on other addictive drugs, too.
This is a disturbing trend. We don't really know what the dangers are when you mix these drugs.
An article in The Archives of General Psychiatry found that doctors today prescribe two or more drugs more often than a decade ago. And, in nine years' time, the average number of meds per visit rose by over 40%.1
It's great for business if you're a psychiatrist. It keeps patients coming back for more.
But no one knows for sure how they interact. The few studies that are published show there are serious side effects.2
Take a look at the problems you face if you take just one antidepressant:
1. Addiction: You get withdrawals if you stop. Symptoms include depression and anxiety worse than the original depression.3Now multiply these reactions by two or three, depending on how many different drugs you're on. And that doesn't even take into consideration what else might happen when these chemicals are combined. It's enough to make anyone depressed!
Get back to basics. If you're on anti-depressants, talk to your doctor about weaning off of them under supervision. Then make positive changes in your life:
Step 1: Get some exercise. Regular exercise is an effective stress buster and mood elevator. It releases serotonin – the "feel good hormone" – in your brain.
Step 2: Eat a primal diet. Processed foods are filled with chemicals that affect hormones, brain function, and mood. Choose fresh and natural instead. Protein contains amino acids, which feed the brain and regulate emotions. Skip sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. They cause mood swings, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Step 3: Go out in the sunshine. Use vitamin D as your natural antidepressant. Ten minutes in the sun a day gives you a whopping 10,000 IU and a sunny disposition.
Step 4: Take a multivitamin. And make sure you get enough B vitamins and minerals like magnesium and Omega-3s. These are important depression fighters.
If you're still not getting enough relief, take a look at St John's Wort. It's a common flowering plant that's proven to work just as well as a prescription with none of the side effects.9 It's best to check with your doctor and take it under supervision.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is another. It's been used in Europe to treat depression for over 20 years.10 You can get SAMe at your local health-food store. I recommend you take 200 mg a day to start. If after two weeks you're not seeing considerable improvement, increase to 400 mg.
Two more supplements you might try are Relora and 5-HTP. Relora is made from two plants that have been used in Chinese medicine for 1,500 years. It rivals benzodiazapenes, but doesn't make you sleepy.11
5-HTP (5-hydoxytryptophan) converts to serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the brain. Start by taking the minimum dose and work up slowly, 20 to 50 mg a day.12
For some people, hormones may be the cause. It doesn't matter if you're a man or woman. A low testosterone level means fatigue, low energy, and depression. Estrogen and progesterone imbalances can do the same. Get your hormone levels tested. If your doctor finds an imbalance, consider natural hormone replacement therapy.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. "National trends in Psychotropic Medication Polypharmacy in Office-Based Psychiatry." Archives of General Psychiatry. Jan 2010.
2. Nemeroff, CB., DeVane, CL., Pollock, BG. "Newer antidepressants and the cytochrome P450 system." Am J Psychiatry 1996; 153:311-320
3. Disalver, S., Greden, J., Snider, R. "Antidepressant Withdrawal Syndromes: Phenomenology and Pathology." January 1987:2 (1).
4. Smoller J., Allison, M. et al. "Antidepressant Use and Risk of Incident Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality Among Postmenopausal Women in the Women's Health Initiative Study." Arch Intern Med, 2009; 169 (22): 2128-2139.
5. FDA Public Health Advisory: REPORTS OF SUICIDALITY IN PEDIATRIC PATIENTS BEING TREATED WITH ANTIDEPRESSANT MEDICATIONS FOR MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER (MDD). October 27, 2003.
6. Pharmacologic management of psychiatric illness during pregnancy: dilemmas and guidelines. Am J Psychiatry 1996; 153:592-606.
7. Caley CF. "Extrapyramidal reactions and the selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors." Ann Pharmacother. 1997 Dec;31(12):1481-9.
8. Eleanor Kibrick and Reginald G. Smart, "Psychotropic Drug Use and Driving Risk." Can Fam Physician. 1972 October; 18(10): 47–52.
9. Linde K, et al. "St John's wort for major depression." Cochrane Reviews. 2008. 4:CD000448.
10. Roberto Delle Chiaie, Paolo Pancheri, and Pierluigi Scapicchio, "Efficacy and tolerability of oral and intramuscular S-adenosyl- L-methionine 1,4-butanedisulfonate (SAMe) in the treatment of major depression: comparison with imipramine in 2 ulticenter studies," Am. J. Clinical Nutrition, Nov 2002; 76: 1172S – 1176S.
11. Douglas S Kalman, Samantha Feldman, Robert Feldman. Effect of a proprietary Magnolia and Phellodendron extract on stress levels in healthy women: a pilot, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. 21 April 2008 Nutrition Journal 2008.
12. Shaw K, Turner J, Del Mar C. "Tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan for depression." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002;(1):CD003198.