Like millions of patients who seek help from their GPs for depression, Emma Ward was repeatedly told she was suffering from ‘an imbalance of chemicals in the brain’.
If Emma wanted to get better, her doctors said the 26-year-old should keep taking the antidepressants she had been prescribed since she was 15 — even though the drugs did not seem to improve her mood, and left her feeling perpetually numb emotionally.
Now, shocking new research published yesterday shows that the theory justifying the millions of prescriptions for antidepressants handed out every month to patients such as Emma, is simply not true.
The research confirms what some medical professionals have increasingly come to suspect. That the ‘chemical imbalance’ theory — that depression is due to a lack of the brain chemical serotonin — is nothing more than a myth.
This myth was created more than 35 years ago by pharmaceutical companies to justify their products, and has been perpetuated ever since by the training and practice of doctors around the world. In the most comprehensive review of the research on links between depression and serotonin ever carried out, researchers from the UK, Italy and Switzerland looked at 17 major international reviews that had documented the findings from more than 260 studies, involving 300,000 patients.
Their findings, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, undermine the basis for decades of prescribing of the most commonly used antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs.