Treating Depression Naturally

From the March 2006 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

Recently, several antidepressant drug manufacturers have been forced to issue new warning labels about clinical worsening and increased suicidal risk in both children and adults who take these drugs. Current regulatory interest is focused on this worsening of symptoms when patients first start taking antidepressant medications, but these drugs have a litany of adverse effects, including aggressiveness, agitation, akathisia (psychomotor restlessness), anxiety, hostility, impulsivity, insomnia, irritability, mania, and panic attacks.

Approximately 1 million people commit suicide each year, worldwide. In the United States, the number of deaths from suicide over the past 20 years exceeds the number of deaths from AIDS. Since more than 90% of the people who commit suicide have mood disorders, suicide is a clear risk in patients with depression (whether treated with medication or not). It is difficult to discern from available research if the suicide rate is measurably higher during the early phase of drug use, but those with depression should be supervised closely.

Warnings on drug labels don’t reduce the risks of drugs. Doctors identify the drug indicated for your condition and write a prescription for it. If you walk into a doctor’s office with a medical problem, you essentially are paying for a doctor to write a prescription. In today’s medical/ insurance environment, most doctors are nothing more than glorified pharmacists. The only option they can offer is prescription medication. When effective nonmedical options are discovered—no matter how heavily reported and documented in the scientific literature—these doctors ignore them. A good example of this is the case of treating rheumatoid arthritis with fasting (a period of time during which you abstain from all foods and ingest only pure water under the supervision of a trained physician) in conjunction with a natural, high-nutrient-dense vegetarian diet. In spite of more and more favorable studies appearing in the scientific literature, the vast majority of doctors won’t even consider this approach. I guess the maxim, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” applies to physicians, too.

With over a million prescriptions for antidepressants being filled each week and annual sales of 11 billion dollars at stake, it is unlikely that a new protocol for depressed people will emerge in America. Money usually dictates direction in the medical/drug/insurance industry. However, the conflict and controversy over the dangers of psychotropic medications used for depression, and the recent cardiac-related deaths from Ritalin prescribed for ADHD, are calling attention to the all-too-cozy relationship between government agencies and the drug industry. The public no longer can trust the validity of drug-related information that comes from even such formerly respected sources as medical journals and universities. These institutions depend increasingly on pharmaceutical dollars (advertising and grant monies), and this has led to numerous instances of inaccurate reports that conceal evidence and promote drug use.

Research and clinical studies are no longer funded or conducted by independent medical centers. Today, funding and research is paid for and commissioned by the pharmacologic companies selling the drugs. The foxes are in charge of the hen house, and you really can’t trust any research conclusions, even when our government approves. From the hawking of cholesterol-lowering drugs to the use of chemotherapeutic agents for cancer, drug trials are set up and interpreted by the drug industry to make the drugs look more safe and beneficial than they are.

Natural therapies are surprisingly effective. Recent advances in non-pharmacologic treatments for depression can help people feel better—and even assist them in making total recovery—without dependence on medications. Researchers doing the studies in this field have been surprised to find that natural therapies can have very high success rates, rivaling those of drugs. Of particular interest is the fact that these non-pharmacologic treatments get results faster than drug treatments. Now is the time for all people with depression to give these safe, natural treatments a try. By combining the most promising facets of these approaches, the likelihood of improvement and recovery is greatly enhanced.
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C.S. - August 17, 2006 10:44 AM

What are some resources (besides the family doctor) for information on these alternative natural therapies for depression?

Hyperion - August 22, 2006 7:42 PM

"Doctors identify the drug indicated for your condition and write a prescription for it. If you walk into a doctor's office with a medical problem, you essentially are paying for a doctor to write a prescription. In today's medical/ insurance environment, most doctors are nothing more than glorified pharmacists. The only option they can offer is prescription medication."

I do not know where you read/heard/saw/learned this, but it is simply not true, especially with regards to neuropsychiatric conditions, but also across the board.

Even if we accept for a moment that a given diagnosis might suggest treatment with a specific class of medications, which isn't necessarily the case (you mention antidepressants, a term which includes SSRIs, SNRIs, SSNRIs, DE/NE reuptake inhibitors, tricyclics, MAOIs, and many other classes), a physician still must determine which specific medication out of several options within a given class to use, based on their differing pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties, receptor-binding affinities, etc. Then, once a physician has determined which specific medication to use, there is still the question of dose and dosage schedule, which would be based on the specifics of each case.

And all of this, keep in mind, is after making a specific diagnosis, which is often harder than it sounds. Is it a major depressive episode, dysthemia, anxiety or panic attacks, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or even comorbid depression due to untreated learning disability, dyslexia, or ADHD? Keep in mind that the wrong choice leads to the wrong drug, leading to bad outcomes. You wouldn't want to give an SSRI, or worse, a DE/NE reuptake inhibitor, to a bipolar patient. If the depressive symptoms are the result of environmental factors due to an undiagnosed disability, antidepressants as a whole are unlikely to be effective, or will only have a mild effect.

So even if we make the assumption that the physician (whether GP or psychiatrist) is automatically going to prescribe a pharmaceutical solution, doing so is far, far, far more complex than simply acting as a "glorified pharmacist" (although a pharmacist's job is also complex in different ways).

Also, out of the 3 million prescriptions for ADHD meds dispensed each month, a grand total of 25 people have died while taking those medications over the past 5 years. I wish all drugs had that kind of safety record.

Finally, HHS & the NIH fund a surprising amount of research using public funds, unconnected to pharmaceutical companies.

Eduardo - September 16, 2006 2:49 AM

Dear Dr. Fuhrman, I think your page is really amazing with great information for people that are dealing with such illnesses as depression or anxiety. I am a grad student in psychology and created a page where I introduce what is called bloggotherapy; which basically means, blogging as a method of therapy. In my page, I give self help techniques and write about diffrent things dealing with mood disorders. Maybe you can put the link to my site, I would really appreciate that.



Deoxyribose - March 1, 2009 1:37 AM

To Hyperion:

You are obviously in bed with the drug company, if not an actual employee of one. Go hawk your snake oil somewhere else. Anyone with a GP knows they can walk in there with a list of symptoms from one of those cleaver drug advertisements, and the doctor won't question it a majority of the time and will give you whatever pill you want, even when you likely don't need anything at all.

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