Yet another example of disease mongering by Big Pharma.
Marketing Serotonin Deficiency
With the release of Prozac back in 1987, the pharmaceutical industry began systematically indoctrinating doctors with the theory that depression is caused by a genetic deficiency in a brain neurotransmitter called serotonin. Big Pharma has subsequently spent 30 years reaping billions of dollars from marketing high-priced SSRIs to treat this so-called deficiency.
There are several obvious flaws in the theory that depression is a genetic brain disorder. The first is the skyrocketing increase in depression and suicide triggered by the 2008 economic meltdown. If depression were genetic, it would follow the same predictable growth curve as population. The second is the total absence of so-called “serotonin deficiency” in lower mammals. The third and most obvious is the extremely low response rate to SSRIs and other antidepressants. Only 50% of patients who take them ever achieve full recovery.
The Learned Helplessness Model of Depression
The absence of “serotonin deficiency” in lower animals means that depression has to be artificially created to research prospective antidepressants. Most of this animal research is based on the “learned helplessness” model. In a common experiment, mice are dropped into a large vat of water. Passing an electric current through the water, the researcher times how long they keep swimming before they give up. After taking a dose of Prozac, they swim longer before capitulating.
There is something incredibly sad about Big Pharma’s obsession with torturing small animals. If the medical profession is serious about addressing the immense suffering caused by this costly and disabling condition, surely they need to start addressing some of the other known causes – for example, nutritional deficiency, derangements in intestinal bacteria and the systematic degradation of family and community life.
Depression Caused by Poverty and Malnutrition
Doctors have known for half a century that specific nutritional deficiencies can cause depression. Western countries are particularly known for depression-linked deficiencies in omega 3 and Vitamin D. Cross-cultural research shows that Asian and Scandinavian countries consuming quantities of fish (which contains both omega 3 and Vitamin D) have extremely low rates of depression.
Depression Caused by Unhealthy Gut Bacteria
Pioneering gastroenterology research suggests the microbiome (the resident bacteria in our intestines) also plays a major role in brain function, as well as digestion, immunity and endocrine function. The overuse of antibiotics (in medicine and factory farming) and herbicides like Roundup has killed off normal bowel flora in a large segment of the industrialized world. This, in turn, has led to a near epidemic levels of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Research shows that dysbiosis is also linked to arthritis, obesity, autoimmune diseases, and so-called “brain” diseases, such as depression, anxiety, migraines, and even autism.
Recent studies suggest that treating this type of depression can be as simple as taking probiotics or eating fermented foods, such as yogurt and sauerkraut.
Human Misery, Stress and Social Isolation
Obviously the worsening economic depression, along with epidemic levels of foreclosures, bankruptcies and evictions, is one of the biggest culprits in the recent exponential increase in depression and suicide.
The current downturn seems to be hitting people harder than the Great Depression of the 1930s. I suspect this relates the overall breakdown of family and community life. Human beings, like other primates, such as apes, monkeys and gorillas, are fundamentally social beings. We are all hard wired to have strong social needs and function very poorly when they go unmet.
Recent neurophysiologic research shows that the human brain produces specific “feel good” neurochemicals (e.g. oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine) to reward people for social activity. Social isolation produces a deficit in these compounds.
The Absence of Nutritional, Microbiome and Social Needs Research
Research into non-pharmaceutical treatments for depression is unlikely to occur in the US, where Big Pharma oversees the vast majority of medical research. For obvious reasons, drug companies have no incentive to investigate treatments that don’t involve a product they can sell for profit. It hasn’t helped that Obama has slashed research budgets for National Institutes of Health and National Institutes of Mental Health.