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Alternatives exist to antidepressants

In a column for the Chicago Daily Herald, Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D, explores the question of how effective antidepressants are, and what alternatives are available.

Antidepressants are now the most commonly prescribed class of medication in the United States. About 1 in 10 Americans is taking one or more antidepressants – a figure that has doubled over the last 20 years.

Recently published research has indicated that prescription antidepressants work best for severe depression, Massey notes. But for patients with mild to moderate depression, antidepressants don’t appear to work any better than a placebo.

Other research has indicated that some types of antidepressants may have health risks. For example, a number of studies have indicated that antidepressants classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, may be linked to potentially dangerous heart and lung defects in babies born to women who take them while pregnant.

That doesn’t mean that antidepressants don’t work, Massey writes, but it suggests that they may not be the best option for everyone. He cites a recent study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry that indicated acupuncture may be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.

The research was actually a compilation of several different studies. The cumulative evidence found that acupuncture is at least as effective as antidepressant medication for mild to moderate depression.

The studies that served as a basis of the research looked at many different kinds of acupuncture including traditional acupuncture with needles, electro-acupuncture as well as laser acupuncture. The also included a wide segment of the population, ranging in age from very young to very old.

Putting all these studies together they found that acupuncture is at least as effective as antidepressant medications and when used in conjunction with antidepressants, acupuncture may also reduce many of the medication side effects.

Massey writes: “Although the medical research is compelling, the weight of medical research on acupuncture and depression is not conclusive. However, medical research has also demonstrated that other simple approaches such as relaxing exercise, stress reduction, meditation and yoga can be beneficial in mild to moderate depression.”

Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with an SSRI lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries from SSRIs.

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