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    Health & Wellness

    Are Antidepressants Faith-Based Treatment?

    By Bruce E. Levine, AlterNet. Posted February 28, 2008.

    Bias in drug studies may mask the mind's role in overcoming depression.

    While millions of people swear by Prozac, Zoloft, and other antidepressants, do they work any better than a placebo or no treatment at all?

    Answering that question would be much easier if: (1) the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed all drug study findings without requiring a Freedom of Information Act request, (2) drug studies with negative results were routinely published in medical journals, (3) the FDA did not rely on drug company studies employing biased research designs, (4) FDA advisory panels did not include advisers financially connected to drug companies and (5) the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) did not fund drug studies by researchers who have financial relationships with drug companies.

    The good news? There are antidepressant researchers without ties to drug companies, and there is wisdom about overcoming depression that remains available.

    On Jan. 17, 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed both published and unpublished antidepressant studies registered with the FDA between 1987-2004. Examining 12 antidepressants, Dr. Erick H. Turner, a former FDA medical reviewer, and his research team included data gained via the Freedom of Information Act.

    Dr. Turner discovered that most studies with negative results were never published in journals, and so doctors had no way of knowing how poorly antidepressants have actually fared. While 94 percent of antidepressant studies published in journals show antidepressants to be more effective than placebos, only 51 percent of all registered studies were determined by the FDA to show antidepressants superior to placebos.

    Why are most negative results not published in journals? Drug studies are routinely funded by the drug's manufacturer, which has no interest in the publication of negative results. Also, medical journals are increasingly dependent on advertising revenue from drug companies, which results in a disincentive to publish negative results.

    Antidepressant advocates point out that when comparing all research subjects, antidepressants retain an advantage -- albeit a modest one -- over placebos. However, that belief is based on studies funded by drug companies, utilizing research designs biased in favor of antidepressants.

    One such research-design bias is the use of depression measurements that weigh heavily depression symptoms most likely to improve with antidepressants (such as sleep problems and agitation), and weigh less heavily depression symptoms not as likely to improve with antidepressants (such as suicidal thoughts and joylessness).

    Why does the FDA allow measurement bias and other dice loading that favors antidepressants? Marcia Angell, former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, concludes that the FDA has been compromised by drug companies. Dr. Angell reports that, for example, in the majority of FDA drug-approval advisory meetings through 2000, half or more of the FDA advisers had conflicts of interest -- financial relationships with drug companies.

    A critical scientific standard in drug studies is the double-blind control (neither subject nor experimenter knows who is getting the drug and who is getting the placebo), but drug-company antidepressant studies use blinds that can be peeked through. How? Inactive placebos such as sugar pills, which don't create side effects, are used, and so subjects can more easily guess if they are getting the actual drug. In order to make it more difficult to penetrate the blind, an active placebo, which creates side effects, should be used. In 2000, a Psychiatric Times article concluded: "In fact, when antidepressants are compared with active placebos, there appear to be no differences in clinical effectiveness."


    See more stories tagged with: depression, antidepressants, drug companies, fda

    Bruce E. Levine, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green, 2007).

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    The drug companies are amoral.
    Posted by: wisegalah on Feb 28, 2008 3:40 AM   
    Current rating: 5    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    And the regulators are in their pockets.
    All conflicts of interest must be prominently published, including the constant cross flow of individuals from the drug companies and regulatory authorities.
    Anyone moving from one to the other should be required to wait for a full two years between leaving one and joining the other, AND the previous connections published with every decision in which that individual is involved.

    All studies must be publically and freely available at the cost of the drug companies, all including those which produce findings which serve the public's interest. Heavy penalties for companies which hide information which does not serve their interests but which is of importance to the general public.

    And this is just the start.

    [« Reply to this comment] [Post a new comment »] [Rate this comment: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5]

    The ownership of science
    Posted by: Peter111000 on Feb 28, 2008 3:43 AM   
    Current rating: 5    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    I think that the most significant aspect of this story is the fraudulent use of science.

    Science and scientists present themselves as objective and honest but are, in truth, bought and paid for by the businesses that own them.

    This is not just in the medical industries but across all industries. University science depends on industry for funding. If there are any honest individual scientists why are they not saying this loudly and often?

    [« Reply to this comment] [Post a new comment »] [Rate this comment: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5]

    recent study by University of Hull
    Posted by: Brian Charles on Feb 28, 2008 3:59 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    This was posted on the BBC web site 2 days ago - seems to confirm what i have thought for a long time and supports the views in this article:

    [« Reply to this comment] [Post a new comment »] [Rate this comment: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5]

    A major consideration
    Posted by: Shey on Feb 28, 2008 5:00 AM   
    Current rating: 4    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    The most frightening fact of all is not even mentioned in this article. The vast majority of people who have taken antidepressants for any length of time beyond a couple of months, experience serious physical effects, when they stop taking them.

    These effects range over a wide spectrum of symptoms, perhaps the most common being IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) so severe as to be debilitating in daily life. These same symptoms can occur while taking these drugs, although when they begin during withdrawal, they often improve or disappear temporarily when medication is started again.

    You wont find this information on any website or in any publication that has any connection to the FDA or the NIH, much less the pharma companies that make these drugs. But there are antidepressant withdrawal support groups all over the Internet.

    Of course there are also shockingly serious mental and emotional side effects involved in the attempt to withdraw from antidepressant dependency as well, including a return of depression far more severe that what was experienced before taking them in the first place, including suicidal tendencies.

    These problems are especially severe with SSRI's (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil) and even more widely experienced and severe with the newer class of "atypical antidepressants" (Effexor, Cymbalta, Wellbutrin and Serzone), the latter (Serzone) being quietly taken off the market several years ago because of serious links to suicides and attempted suicides, in people of all ages.
    These "atypical antidepressants" combine the workings of SSRI's with targeting neurotransmitters other than the usual ones associated with Serotonin.

    From this website,

    "In may 2007, the FDA recommended a new warning label for all antidepressant medications. The current 'black box' label includes a warning about the increased risk if suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents.
    The FDA wants to expand this warning to include young adults from ages 18-24. Children and young adults should also be monitored for the emergence of agitation, irritability and unusual changes in behavior, as these symptoms indicate that the depression is getting worse."

    Is anyone actually listening,?? We're really supposed to believe that age 24 is some magical cut-off point beyond which no one will be at risk for these literally life threatening "side effects"?
    Wake up people, Aldous Huxley's Soma was an aspirin, compared to what we're ingesting today, doing possibly irreparable damage to both out bodies and minds.

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    Thorazene shuffle
    Posted by: solrev on Feb 28, 2008 5:31 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    One of the problems with psychiatric drug tests is in establishing a control group. One has to differentiate between acute and chronic and all kinds of dominant symptoms, drug therapies are a trial and error process at best. We just do not know the causes at this time. Most of the people taking prozac probably do not need anything more than a placebo and a support process. These people are a big step away from the people on hospital wards doing the thorazene shuffle. We are just scratching at the surface with current brain chemistry technology. Five hundred years from now we will look like bloodletters in our treatment of psychiatric disabilities. Drug companies are in business to make money and they will supply the placebo people, if it makes those people happy. The thorazene people can not function well enough to earn the money to pay for the drugs anyway. The most important thing in psychiatric drug testing is not how effective they are, but will they kill you anyway. Another problem with these placebo drugs is that people are misdiagnosed and given these drugs. Later they have a complete psychotic break and become extremely dangerous to themselves and others.

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    Prozac helped me
    Posted by: ladyoracle on Feb 28, 2008 5:40 AM   
    Current rating: 3    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    Think what you want, but after three years of minimal improvement with traditional psychotherapy Prozac was added to my routine, and I got better only then. A year and a half later I was weaned off the drug with no negative effects. It is supposed to help re-wire your brain, so that for instance, if when you can't find your keys and you're late, your first reponse is to give up and not only miss work or your meeting, but use that as an excuse to blow off chores and everything else you intended to do that day, and none of that changes when you sit on the keys, which were between the pillows on the couch. With Prozac and therapy, you learn to allow yourself to entertain other options, such as calling in late, trying to get a ride, or simply continuing to look until you find the keys--then continue your day as planned.

    Think what you will, I don't care. But for me, it took Prozac to help me entertain the non-self-destructive thoughts and implement them in even the most banal moments of "crisis."

    [« Reply to this comment] [Post a new comment »] [Rate this comment: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5]

    » RE: Prozac helped me Posted by: ankhet
    Posted by: nobody4prez on Feb 28, 2008 6:00 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    Just because it's snake oil doesn't mean it won't work.

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    Pharmaceutical companies are out of control.
    Posted by: thoughtcriminal on Feb 28, 2008 6:04 AM   
    Current rating: 5    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    They've put profits ahead of everything else, as most businesspeople do, but that also means that they've gained control of the very apparatus that's supposed to regulate them - the FDA, the DEA and the Congress and Executive branches.

    They spend more on marketing and public relations efforts than just about any other industry, much of which is dishonest and is targeted at doctors and at patients. They also work overtime to cover up the negative side effects or inconclusive results in their studies.

    What's sad is how many people buy into the marketing and propaganda. Big Pharma has managed to create non-existent "diseases" out of thin air, most notably ADHD, and they've also managed to replace therapy and therapy-drug models for treating depression and mental illness with a daily high-dose drug regimen (far more profitable for pharmaceutical companies).

    These massive and far-reaching PR campaigns extend from the professor's offices at the most prestigious universities in the U.S., all across the print, television, radio, and Internet, and even into remote Third World countries (where more and more of the new drug trials are carried out, safe from watching eyes).

    It's a big, ugly mess - and a very profitable one, which is why things continue under business as usual (notice how pharmaceutical drugs haven't come much during the "vigorous health care debate" between the Presidential candidates?).

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    It all started 71 years ago.
    Posted by: maxpayne on Feb 28, 2008 6:15 AM   
    Current rating: 5    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    When Big Pharma cooperated with the vested Big Business interests to outlaw hemp, they knew that without competition, they could finally POISON and FUCK America to DEATH !

    GO LOCAL AND GROW YOUR OWN NATURAL MEDICINES AND FIGHT TO TEAR DOWN THE HEMP BAN WALL !! Like food, going local is the only way we're going to be prepared to survive the big PEAK OIL BOMB !

    [« Reply to this comment] [Post a new comment »] [Rate this comment: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5]

    It has been
    Posted by: kclaf on Feb 28, 2008 6:39 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    my experience as an energy therapist that natural and alternative therapies work the best for people experiencing depression. Reiki and Reconnective Healing and others have remarkable results treating people with these issues. There are no drugs involved and the benefits are many. It's really too bad that these and other ways of treating disorders of any kind are so ignored by the medical community. I guess the problem is that there are no 'big' bucks associated with these effective methods! If something doesn't cost a bundle I guess it doesn't work....there you go there's dumb logic for you.

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    Who issues the prescriptions?
    Posted by: brunowe on Feb 28, 2008 6:44 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    I think one of the issues regarding antidepressants is the question of what professionals are involved in assisting the patient with the decision re medications.

    It is one thing if someone goes to a G.P., describes symptoms of depression and gets a Paxil prescription and it's left at that. It's something else if the decision is made in the course of psychotherapy and the prescription is either given by the therapist (if a psychiatrist) or by a psychiatrist who is in touch with the therapist and if the effects are monitored in the subsequent therapy.

    Much has been made, legitimately, of the role of Big Pharma in this. The role of HMOs also needs to be spotlighted. They are inclined to favor pharmaceuticals over therapy because the former are cheaper.

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    Read DEADLY MEDICINE by Thomas J. Moore
    Posted by: opmoc on Feb 28, 2008 7:05 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    I bought this book because it concerns how a range of heart drugs got FDA approval. The reason I was interested is because I have a hereditary muscular condition, and I know that these drugs - although not designed for that purpose - have a remarkable effect on virtually eliminating the symptoms.

    I know this from the fact that my sister took one of these drugs for over 20 years - and also from other research about the condition.

    I've never taken anything for it - but was considering asking my doctor to prescribe it.

    The story of how these drugs got approval is absolutely horrendous and I am now convinced that my sister's early death was due to taking one of them.


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    I do not really know if it faith-based or not,
    Posted by: steven w on Feb 28, 2008 7:21 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    but anything that will squelch sex the way some of that shit does, I am sure it makes a lot of religious nuts happy- hell, some of those pills make your pecker shrivel enough to where all you need is a peanut and a rubber band for a jock strap. The greatest cure for depression is exercise, salad, dark green leafy vegetables- well a good diet. Also, a person is more attractive and feel better. When you get home every day, do NOT sit down!

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    » correction: "a peanut hull" Posted by: steven w
    These damn pill people
    Posted by: steven w on Feb 28, 2008 7:25 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    have the whole nation scared to death that without them we will all self destruct. Disclaimer: I am NOT telling anyone to stop taking their pills- just something to think about.

    [« Reply to this comment] [Post a new comment »] [Rate this comment: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5]

    Why are we so depressed?
    Posted by: garry minor on Feb 28, 2008 7:51 AM   
    Current rating: 5    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    Because we live in a depressing world and no one has time to stop and think. These antidepressants are just another band-aid propagated on our ignorant society to relieve the anxiety of a world devoid of the Truth. Just like racism and the wars on drugs and terror, we aren't given all the correct information, which only feeds the beast of ignorance instead of getting to the root of the problem and actually taking it head on. We are then misled into actions that are more physically and mentally destructive, creating more and more depressing situations that lead to more and more quick fixes, another pill, a new car, another pill, a bigger house, another pill, wars and divisions of people, ultimately giving more profits for the big man!
    While I have no doubt these drugs do help some people, there are other much safer drugs and treatments that we could be using that we never hear of. Its the same censorship that robbed us of the most useful plant on the planet during the 1930's, which itself could be used to transform our world into a place we wouldn't need these antidepressants, the safest medicine on the planet, kaneh bosm, cannabis, hemp!
    In 2006 at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, a researcher named Xia Zhang discovered that THC actually promotes the growth of new brain cells, improving memory, fighting depression and mood disorders. THC was also clinically proven to destroy tumors by Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutense University of Madrid Spain in 2000. Our Government knew this in 1974. THC is also proven to prevent Alzheimers, and cannabinoids are being used in Canada and Europe to treat MS, autism, epilepsy, diabetes, migraine, arthritis, obesity, chronic pain, asthma, emphysema, herpes, skin disorders, Parkinsons, Huntingtons, Tourettes, OCD, Crohns disease, and more. The only side effects being an increased appetite which is a healthy condition and it makes you feel good! OH NO!!! All mammals birds, fish and reptiles have cannabinoid receptors throughout their body that work independent of those that govern the heart and breathing. This is why cannabis cannot kill you!
    Further, anything made from oil, coal, timber, or cotton can be made ecological friendly with cannabis hemp. All paper, plastics, packaging, paints, varnishes, fuels, lubricants, textiles, plywood, structural components, many cosmetics, and health foods can all be made with it, over 25,0000 known products. Canvas is Dutch for cannabis. Its seed is the single most nutritious thing you can eat! Henry Ford built and fueled a car primarily with hemp, its cellulose plastic panels ten times stronger than steel. Neither he or Diesel intended to run their engines with petroleum. One acre of hemp equals four of timber for pulp and you harvest it every year, tree's take a lifetime. It is at the very minimum four times more efficient than corn, kenaf, or sugar cane for ethanol production. It grows without most fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides to foul the soil and water, in climates and conditions other crops wont grow.
    Cannabis hemp industrialization will create millions of Earth friendly jobs from the farm to the laboratory, begin a redistribution of wealth, bringing in a world of social harmony and peace. No need to fight over oil or chop down any more tree's.
    Kaneh bosm is also the main ingredient in the Holy Oil God instructed Moses to make in Exodus 30:23, and is named as an incense tree in Song of Songs 4:14. It is also named In Isaiah 43:24, Jeremiah 6:20, and Ezekiel 27:19. The title Christ/Messiah means literally covered in oil, Anointed! Calamus, the plant the Greeks mistranslated from the Hebrew Kaneh bosm could also be quite effective in treating mood disorders as its active chemical asarone is a precursor to the psychedelic MDMA, which is now being used to treat PTSD in combat veterans.
    Food, fuel, shelter, medicine, pleasure, spirituality, unity! The Tree of Life, kaneh bosm, cannabis, hemp!

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    Prozac, etc
    Posted by: xvictor on Feb 28, 2008 8:00 AM   
    Current rating: 5    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    These drugs have a tendecy to pervert people's behavior in subtle ways. They sometimes view events thru a lens grounded in paranoia. Taking these drugs goes not guarantee normal behavior in work and private life.

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    so silly.... just smoke pot...
    Posted by: dsmidiman on Feb 28, 2008 8:27 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    I find it hilarious that we live in a society that spends billions and billions of dollars "studying" human behavior and then "inventing" designer drugs to try and make a person "feel better" when there is a god given plant (all natural) that grows right out of the ground. The only physically dangerous thing about smoking pot is the actual smoking part which forces a person to ingest the active ingredient (THC) in such a way that is so harmful to the body. Pot has been around since the beginning of time and it's advantagious uses are many.

    It has been known for centuries and is becoming more widely acknowledged everyday that one of the major keys to a physically healthy body is a body that is also mentally healthy. I am 52 years old and have smoked pot regularly since my early 20's. I have never felt the need to move on to herion, cocaine or alcohol or any other drug. I am and always have been a hard working tax paying responsible faith based person who was married for 25 years and raised two beautiful daughters. Never been in any kind of trouble and am well respected amongst my peers and in my community.

    In my opinion we should not only legalize pot but should extract the active ingredient (THC) put it in the water supply and have everyone ingest it daily. I'm sure that this idea scares the hell out of many people as they assume that the world would become nothing but a bunch of zombies sitting around laughing and ingesting mega tons of Cheetoes. But as far as my experience and the experiences of most of the people I know that use pot this scenario simply is not correct. There are people with obsessive/addicitve personalities that cannot control their obsessions whether it is food, sex, alcohol, caffeine, work or any one of many other things. Obsession and addiction is a behavioral issue, the target of the obsession or addiction means nothing.

    The only reason pot is not legal is because the people driving the bus in this country have not figured out a way to make the same kind of money from pot that they can make inventing and selling designer drugs and replacing the money they make incarcerating or "rehabbing" those who use pot. The idea that the reason pot is illegal is for our own safety is nothing but a snow job. If that were the case then cigarettes, alcohol, fatty foods, industrial pollution, combustable engines etc. etc. etc. would be illegal....

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    Depression Among US Workers
    Posted by: drricklippin on Feb 28, 2008 9:07 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    Thanks Dr. Levine-

    Your premise about any belief having a measurable physiologic effect is correct. But alas underappreciated.

    My experience has been mostly with US workers and their belief systems. Generally there is a great deal of anxiety about job security, mistrust and sometimes hoplessness when job loss occurs.

    I believe many segments of US workforce abuse antidepressants -mostly SSRIs.

    I have written about this in Dr Jay Cohen's good E-Newsletter Scroll down to July/Sept 2004

    I would submit that more antidepressants are not the answer

    Thanks Again,

    Dr. Rick Lippin
    Southampton, Pa

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    Antidepressants are for real
    Posted by: cindyn on Feb 28, 2008 9:28 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    and they work. Since I've gone Lexapro a year ago, I told my boss to stick it, cut off my "friends" who were only using me as a sounding board, and dumped my self-absorbed and manipulative girlfriend - and I've never been more centered or at peace.

    These drugs work, but they must be given time to take full effect. Also, Prozac is an old first-generation drug; the newer ones are far better.

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    anthony weishar
    Posted by: AJWeishar on Feb 28, 2008 9:30 AM   
    Current rating: Not yet rated    [1 = poor; 5 = excellent]
    What kind of research, if any, does the FDA require on the effects of stopping the medications? In February, three patients who had quit taking meds killed over a dozen people in Illinois, New York City, and Ohio. The drug manufacturers are leaving human time bombs in the general population.

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