Thunderbolt within psychiatry. A study published at the end of July 2022 questions the benefits of serotonin and accuses antidepressants of having a placebo effect. An analysis that does not achieve consensus among scientists.
1.9 million. This is the number of additional antidepressants delivered in France between 2020 and 2021, according to an Epi-flagship report published in May 2021. If France is no longer European champion in the consumption of psychotropic drugs, the health crisis has everything even awakened from old habits (article in link below). However, a vast “shock” survey published on July 20, 2022 in the scientific journal Nature (in link below, in English) questions the effectiveness of treatments for depression.
No proof !
It refers more precisely to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Prozac, Deroxat, Zoloft, to name a few, operate in the brain of the person suffering from depression in order to increase the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter particularly associated with the state of happiness. But could there be any link between serotonin levels and depression? Yes, concludes the analysis of 17 studies conducted by several international scientists, including Joanna Moncrieff of the University College of London. His team found that there was no evidence that low serotonin activity or levels cause depression. This revelation goes against the grain of decades of research that justified the advent of antidepressants in the 1990s. “The conclusion of our article is that we don’t know what SSRI antidepressants are used for, says the researcher. It is possible that they have a placebo effect. »
The limits of a polemical study
An analysis to be taken with tweezers like many scientific studies just out of laboratories. According to Johan Lundberg, of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, interviewed in the New Scientist, the work of the Moncrieff team overlooked an important piece of data: the distinction between people suffering from continuous depression and those who have episodes of depression, whose state at the time they were assessed could affect the functioning of their serotonergic system. For Paul Albert, another neuroscientist, serotonin, also called 5-HT in scientific jargon, is only one factor in depression. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that directly influences behavior, is also involved.
The spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists hastened to qualify the words of the scientific cohort which, taken literally by patients treated for depression, could lead to dramatic situations: “Antidepressants are an effective, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)-recommended treatment for depression that can also be prescribed for a range of physical and mental health conditions. Antidepressants will have varying effectiveness in different people, and the reasons for this are complex. We would not recommend anyone stop taking their antidepressants based on this review and encourage anyone with concerns about their medications to contact their doctor.” In an interview with Current wife in 2015, psychiatrist Adeline Gaillard declared: “To say that antidepressants are useless is to tell patients that nothing can be done for them. It’s awful”. If they are essential in the treatment of the disease, they must therefore be prescribed in a balanced and adapted way according to the type of depression, without either replacing therapy.
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