Top US psychiatrist debunks links between serotonin and depression

Top US psychiatrist debunks links between serotonin and depression

Mental illness 2704Washington (ISJ) - A leading US psychiatrist has debunked the widely-held belief that low levels of serotonin in the brain cause depression.

David Healy, Professor of Psychiatry at the Hergest Psychiatric Unit in North Wales, says there is a misconception that lowered serotonin levels in depression are an established fact, reports British Medical Journal, BMJ.

?It is the marketing of a myth,? he writes in the BMJ.

Healy says it took two decades for drug companies to come out with serotonin reuptake inhibiting (SSRI) drugs in the late 1980s.

Drug companies marketed SSRIs for depression, even though they were weaker than older tricyclic antidepressants, and sold the idea that depression was the deeper illness behind superficial manifestations of anxiety, Healy explains.

Healy says the approach was an astonishing success but no one knew if SSRIs raised or lowered serotonin levels even a decade after the drugs were first launched.

There was no evidence that treatment corrected anything, he argues.

The leading US psychiatrist suggests, the myth encompassed many, including the complementary health market, psychologists, and journals. But above all the myth co-opted doctors and patients, he says.

Healy says it provided an easy short hand for doctors to communicate with patients. The patients, he says, too were taken in by the appealing packages which highlighted that distress is not a weakness.

Healy says in the process more effective and less costly treatments were marginalized.

Source: British Medical Journal

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