At Fairwinds Treatment Center, sometimes to produce the most beneficial outcome from all the work a patient accomplishes, we incorporate the use of medication. With regard to depression, the theory that medication designed to increase the levels of the signaling molecule, serotonin, is most effective for countering depression has prevailed since the late 1980s.
This common thinking toward antidepressant medication contributed to the rapid popularity of Prozac in the 1980s. However, some pundits attributed the drug's success to having fewer side effects than its predecessors, like tricyclics which conversely worked by repressing the absorption of serotonin and norepinephrine into the brain.
"I don't think there's any convincing body of data that anybody has ever found that depression is associated to a significant extent with a loss of serotonin," said Alan Frazer, then-chair of the pharmacology department at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, to NPR in a 2012 discussion on the widespread serotonin theory.
During that same conversation with NPR, Dr. Joseph Coyle, a professor of neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, described the focusing in on chemical imbalances as a dated 20th century approach to understanding how depression works.
This climate of uncertainty has led to a study conducted by the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center and Wayne State University School of Medicine. After researchers developed mice lacking the ability to produce serotonin, the mice were subjected to a battery of tests to determine if they were depressed. Incidents of heightened compulsivity and aggression were seen, but not depression, according to the report published in the journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience. Conversely, mice producing serotonin at normal levels responded positively to antidepressants.
The conversation on what role serotonin production plays in treating depression continues. But if you or your loved one is looking for treatment for depression, turn to Fairwinds Treatment Center. Since 1989, Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef has used his unique dual diagnosis methodology to help patients resolve their mental health problems.