Big Pharma says yes, but others aren’t so sure
The Globe and Mail
By Leah McLaren
June 18, 2010
“It’s all in your head” isn’t something a chronically depressed person likes to hear. In the age of Prozac, when adjusting your serotonin level is as normal as checking the oil in your car, it seems unhelpful to suggest that someone might think their way into – or out of – a disease of the mind.
And yet depression is all in our heads. Where else would it be? The real question, still hotly debated in the scientific community, is whether its cause is chemical and ultimately curable (good news for Big Pharma) or something far more complex (good news for poets and pot-smoking students of existential philosophy).
There is no doubt that depression exists. Inexplicable sadness – or “melancholia,” as it was historically known – has been with us since Hippocrates conceived his famous oath. But a groundbreaking new study has found that not only is depression affected by the way we think about it, so too is its cure.
Last week Irving Kirsch, a professor at the University of Hull in the U.K., presented a study that found Prozac and its ilk are no more effective than placebos in treating depression. In his view, there is no substantial link between serotonin – the brain chemical that antidepressants are supposed to regulate – and chronic depression.
It’s a controversial study – one that many members of the psychiatric community reject out of hand – but it also raises a nagging question about depression: How did it come to be recognized as a disease in the first place?
Like Hirsch, psychologist and writer Gary Greenberg is part of a growing number of psychiatric professionals who have begun to publicly question the underpinnings of popular thinking on depression.
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