This week, we heavily discussed the nature of addiction and depression, which made me compare and contrast the impacts of addiction and depression as one unit. Often, depression is treating with antidepressants, but to what degree do they actually work? And, to what degree to they promote an inclination to addiction? Oddly enough, I wasn’t the first to think of this correlation.
From a government study conducted (though about ten years ago), it was found that antidepressant have not really been improving in their ability to combat depression, but rather to reduce the side effects of previous antidepressants. This in turn begs the question: what is the cause of depression? The answer? Too many. Yet, doctors and scientists continue to invest effort to discover new drugs to prescribe in an ongoing effort to cure this “illness”. Steven Hyman, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, explains how there is a related link between cortisol levels and levels of depression. This causal link highlights how depressed individuals may have increased alertness, but lower sexual drive and appetite. So, block the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) pathway that pumps out the cortisol and yay, problem solved! If only.
It has to of course be more complicated. Mental health is the key in understanding depression and any potential antidepressant addiction that accompanies it. The role of the mind has been witnessed through Placebo effects and withdrawal symptoms of taking or stopping antidepressants. For instance, “35% of placebo patients typically improve” compared to the 50% that typically notice results when taking the actual drug. And often time, differences between the two prove to be statistically insignificant. Can the placebo be the cure? I feel these studies emphasize the inevitability of mental health being in charge of one’s depression. This being the case, it is easy to assume that an individual can develop a mental addiction to antidepressants based on the notion that it is the only cure for them and without it they are unable to thrive. Harvard Health discusses going off antidepressants as an alignment with discontinuation symptoms. There are key differences to note between a depressed individual’s depression symptoms and discontinuation symptoms. The SRIs, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors contribute to withdrawal symptoms. Poor positive framing increase these symptoms; based on our discussion in class, withdrawal symptoms, if disrupting day to day order or forcing an individual to seek drugs for relief no matter what, can be characterized as an addiction.
However the mind, body, and soul work together, I do respect nature’s path. If depression is an evolutionarily adapted trait, the difficulty found in “curing” depression might be nature’s way of hinting that it shouldn’t be treated as an illness nor should the existence of it be abolished. Humans have been living for thousands of years, and if signs of depression have assisted in that travel, then perhaps there is some beneficial purpose to it after all.