Pill-popping no cure-all for depression

Medicate less and meditate more  >  So said a wise healer and it is certainly a philosophy worth considering at a time when doctors are failing to warn millions on antidepressants about their potential side-effects. These include nausea, anxiety and insomnia.

This nationwide alert follows a study* which found that the majority of those on these pills are never warned about the harm they can cause.

As this Blog has been warning for years, antidepressants potentially have hidden side-effects, can be addictive and there is no guarantee they work. This undermines the principle of informed consent, which is essential if patients are to make a proper assessment of the harms and benefits.

The chairman of the APPG for Prescribed Drug Dependence, said: “Doctors are unaware of the potential harms of antidepressants and fail to communicate the risks to their patients“.

No help for antidepressant addiction

Shockingly there is no specific support for people dependent on prescription drugs, despite the resources spent on those who abuse illegal drugs.

If you don’t want to take antidepressants, there are many alternative treatments you can try. In fact, unless your depression is very severe, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines recommend that antidepressants should not be your main treatment.

NICE suggests that before prescribing you medication, your doctor should recommend exercise or a talking treatment, such as cognitive  behavioural therapy and Tonic’s style of hypnotherapy. Also don’t dismiss simple ideas such as laughing and hugging

Clutching at straws?

However, dumping your pills as an act of faith in favour of talking therapies is unwise. According to a study by researchers at Sheffield University, talking therapies – hailed for the best part of a decade as the solution to the over-medication of depression and anxiety – can do more harm than good for some patients if they’re misapplied, or of poor quality.

The fact is doctors do not know if the different types of treatment are better or worse for different disorders.  In the world of evidence-based medicine, researchers are increasingly trying to move beyond just ‘what works’ to ‘what works, for whom?

Here is a scary thought. The British use more antidepressants than almost every other country in the Western world“, says a Tonic therapist. “Safer alternatives are needed. But talking therapies are far from an exact science and it is only recently that the phrase ‘evidence-based therapies’ has entered common parlance. In other words … if it works, prove it!

From Tonic’s perspective we make two points. Even if they fail to work, there is no evidence that talking therapies can cause harm if implemented as complementary treatments. Secondly, whatever the arguments, we believe treating the cause rather than the symptoms is far better than any pill. That is why talking therapies are proving so effective“.

Footnote > * The report was carried out by the University of Roehampton. It was carried out on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Prescribed Drug Dependence.

22 thoughts on “Pill-popping no cure-all for depression

  1. As you say … if it works – prove it. Does that also apply to Tonic’s therapies! Any treatment offered to vulnerable people must be subject to scrutiny, so put your own cards on the table.

  2. It is all very well saying complementary therapies are better than pills, but you try getting a NHS referral. It is enough to depress anyone! It is no surprise that docs find it easily to prescribe pills with such daunting waiting lists.

    • D.D. Thompson-Ford says:

      Good point. NICE guidelines do indeed state that talking therapies should be offered before drugs, but there simply are not enough qualified talking therapists to take up the workload. The Depression Report showed clearly that investment in making CBT and similar therapies more widely available would be better for the economy in the long run than handing out pills.

      • Mandy (Client 107) says:

        Most of those who take these drugs do so because they suffer from anxiety. Do you really think they need to hear every possible side effect and withdrawal symptom before they even put one tablet, that they desperately need, into their mouths?
        Depression is real and dangerous, and yet the meds they need are stigmatised to the extent that they are made to feel inadequate for using them. If someone’s thyroid doesn’t work properly they have to take thyroxine daily for life, So why can’t people show respect and tolerance to people who suffer with depression as they do any other possible crippling illnesses.

    • Doctors do not have time to think laterally. They have no time to get involved in complementary therapies plus there are not enough of these specialists to cope with demand. So you end up with quick fix of prescribing. But patients are equally to blame as too many people feel they have not had a proper medical consultation if they don’t leave with a prescription. A sad world.

      • Depression is not always caused by “something that’s happened in your life”. It can be a chronic ongoing condition that needs treating. However, I concede that it is easier and quicker to scribble a prescription for drugs than it is to address the underlying causes

  3. Gordon (Harrogate) says:

    There is no shortage of scare stories about how certain SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants can cause addiction or making people suicidal. We are indeed a nation addicted to happy pills.How sad.

    • ginger-girl says:

      I have found that MIND offers superb guidance. I approach them because my antidepressants had too many side affects,including excessive sweating and tiredness. Thanks to MIND’s guidance I now attend CBT sessions and I would strongly recommend them.

      • Iris (Client 56) says:

        Antidepressants act as a comfort blanket. They won’t change what’s happened in your life that is making you so depressed. As Tonic keeps saying …. treat the cause not the symptom and no pill,however strong, can do that.

    • Chaucer-Boy says:

      These drugs are meant to be a temporary measure. Instead they are too often prescribed for years. Anything that alters your brain chemistry is obviously going to have serious side effects. Seek alternative treatments such as complementary therapies, vitamins (niacin) or even environmental therapy.

    • Charlie-Boy says:

      I could not wait to get off these ghastly drugs. They made me feel numb and the side-effects were terrible. I went on alternative herbal medicine instead. Best thing I did.

  4. There is also no way of knowing whether a person who reports feeling more depressed after a course of therapy might have felt worse regardless. Still, I agree with your point that there can be no harm giving talking therapy a try – certainly safer than taking happy pills.

  5. Clara (Client 99) says:

    My doc gave me anti-depressants but when I read the small print on the pot I dumped the lot. I wasn’t prepared to potentially sacrifice my physical health for my mental health. Based on some DIY research I found complementary therapies which helped me with no risk. I guess I was lucky as I was able to evaluate the situation and realise pills were too dangerous formy situation.

    • Terri (Aberdeen) says:

      Yes, there is a leaflet inside every pot of prescribed pills – it is there to be read. If you don’t read these advice notes then you can’t blame doctors when things go wrong. Ask questions! If I am offered a new pill I want to know potential side effects. Don’t plead ignorance when everything you need to know can be found out in a few minutes.

    • If you read the info on the pot you will find that these drugs’ side effects are potentially worse than the problem they claim to cure. Buyer beware.

  6. Antidepressants can take time to work so be patient and don’t be spooked by mood swings which will pass. However, don’t be bullied into taking drugs. It surprised me how quickly my doctor offered them – it was just an excuse to get me out of the surgery as quickly as possible.

  7. It is healthy to question depression treatments because of their potential side effects. But remember, clinical depression is a debilitating and life threatening disorder that cannot be ignored. Some risks are necessary in treating it, though a balanced approach – such as combining antidepressants with CBT – is advisable. Good luck!

  8. I recently came off my anti-depressants and I am emotional wreck – anxious and tearful. Annoyed that my condition is likely caused by late side effects and I could have to wait up to a year for these hyper-sensitive emotions to pass. Be warned!

    • M.N. (Ewell) says:

      Coming off these things can be really challenging and the side effects linger for a long time. And yet I am so grateful thankful for my anti-depressants – they certainly are not a magic cure but for some of us they are enough to just get us through the day.

  9. Ahmed Tolly says:

    These drugs work for many. It is wrong to slag them off on the basis that depression is due to lifestyle or thought patterns. Most depression is due to chemical imbalances in the brain and thus anti-depressants fight fire with fire. I know people who take Prozac long term, enabling them to live normal, almost carefree,lives. for 23 years.. Without antidepressants I doubt they would still be alive. Forget about the side effects, if you need antidepressants take them and do so with confidence.

  10. Thora Holland says:

    There are many patients on various meds for a wide range of different problems. Most keep them alive and no one says a word, yet there is such a stigma with antidepressants. Their image has got so bad that people who need them to survive are made to feel like failures.
    Depression and anxiety are real and without treatment can be dangerous, even life threatening.

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