Serotonin Theory Of Depression & Why It’s Wrong!
Okay I admit, the title is a little stronger than the message, but read on!
Article Introduction (Via Neurotopia)
Ok, the serotonin theory of depression may not be wrong. But it is definitely incomplete. One might ask why we use serotonergic drugs to treat depression if the theory behind it is wrong. A good question, but to this I say: because it worked. The original antidepressants, the monoamine oxidase inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants, were originally used to treat other diseases, such as tuberculosis and psychosis, and found to be effective for depression as a sideline. Did people know how they worked? Nope, but they appeared to work (though only in a subset of the population), and so they came into use. Some people might get up in arms about this, and yell about how we shouldn’t use drugs unless we know how they work. But if we spent our lives doing that, no one would have ever made asprin. Or morphine. Heck, no one would have patented Ritalin. We know THAT Ritalin works, and we know what Ritalin does in the brain, but do we know why Ritalin calms down people with ADHD when it’s really a stimulant? Not really, no. But it’s still out there, because it works
Additional Article Excerpts (Via Neurotopia)
So depression MUST be caused by low levels of serotonin in the brain, right? Wrong! Just because a drug relieves the symptoms of something, does not mean that the lack of that drug was the cause of the symptoms. In the most common example, it’s a well known fact that headaches are not caused by a lack of asprin.
But of course, science wasn’t just going to sit on this drug and say the serotonin theory was right without testing it. There have been many tests performed testing the serotonin theory of depression. Unfortunately, almost all of them have been conflicting or inconclusive. Scientists have tried measuring the serotonin metabolites of depressed patients to see if they have different levels from healthy controls, but the samples are incredibly small and human data has tons of variables (such as what drugs they had been treated with, how long the patient has been depressed, if they have other disorders as well, etc, etc).