How To Manage Depression Without Meds

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pill heart
How love -- not drugs -- can save you and your relationship.

What a difference a few years makes.

"New Cures for Depression" shouted the 1986 essay in New Woman magazine; "Dramatic Progress against Depression," blared a New York Times Magazine piece in 1990. Its subtitle was revealing: "The success of new drugs is prompting debate on their overuse—and the value of talk therapy." That story smugly said that the new wave of antidepressants, including the then two-year old Prozac, which took the country by storm, had "proved to be as effective as the older ones and often safer." What's more, the article went on to say that these amazing new drugs worked when old-fashioned talk therapy didn't. Psychotherapy was relegated to the dustbin of history.

Fast-forward just a couple of years. Suddenly, the manufacturer of Prozac, Eli Lilly, was being sued by families of people who either committed suicide or tried to do so while taking the drug. In the next 15 years, lawsuits for other antidepressants piled up against other manufacturers for the same reason: Forest Pharmaceuticals, maker of Celexa; Lilly (again), maker of Cymbalta; Pfizer, maker of Zoloft; and GlaxoSmith Kline, maker of Paxil. What's Your Attachment Style?

At the same time, the Food and Drug Administration started coming down hard on pharmaceutical companies for promoting "off-label" uses of their products, that is, uses that had not been approved by the FDA. To accomplish their goals, big pharmaceutical companies would pay doctors to prescribe various drugs already in use for symptoms not related to the drugs' stated purpose.

Not only did the drug industry promote off-label uses, but many of the research papers that touted the benefits of the medication were fraudulent. Doctors on the drug makers' payroll would submit fictitious results to such prestigious journals as the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Journals subsequently added to their editorial policies a requirement that all submissions include the funding sources for the research.

And now, the latest blow to the pharmaceutical industry: research shows that not only are dummy pills, called placebos, just as effective in routing out depression as antidepressants, but in some cases they are even more effective! What's more, the latest technology shows that both the dummy pills (used in scientific research as "controls") and talk therapy change the brain's wiring. That means we can take psychotherapy out of the dustbin and restore it to the place of honor—and hope—where it belongs.

When it comes to depression, we need that hope. According to a 2009 study in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (JMFT), close to 16% of people will be diagnosed with Major Depression during their lives; in fact, the World Health Organization states that, of all health problems, depression is the second from the top. Of interest, more women than men suffer from depression in marriage.

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