No, I am not a neuropharmacologist. I merely live with a brain whose regulation of serotonin and norepinephrine is faulty. To help deal with this I take a drug called Effexor. It's the only one that deals with both those neurochemicals, but it is much like the SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor) family in its processes and effects; except those only work on serotonin.
I posted a ranting comment to one blog today, and sent a snippy note to another. In one case I was annoyed at other posters for sloughing off the importance of brain research, in another I was badly disappointed to see a misunderstaning about psychoactive drugs perpetuated. So I thought maybe I should write a little something about this area which is so important to me.
Let me explain something to you: SSRIs and the SNRI that I take are NOT happy pills. They don't drug you into insensibility nor make you high nor turn you into a zombie. They affect the mechanism in the brain which regulates levels of the neurotransmitters (seritonin for ssris and seritonin and norepinephrine for the other) in the brain. For reasons we do not understand some brains do not regulate these vital neurochemicals correctly. Also for reasons we do not understand levels of them which are too low lead very nearly inexorably to depression. We understand the mechanisms of how the medicines work pretty well, but have no ways to ameliorate their side effects. Which while unpleasant they're an awful lot better than depression. Untreated depression can be fatal.
So in effect, what these drugs do is allow my brain, and me, to function relatively normally. Not completely of course, I have dry mouth, tinnitus, excessive sweating, and decreased libido, but biochemically induced depression renders me very close to competely non-functional. Now, I can still get depressed while on these drugs, IF it is situationally appropriate to do so. If a family member died, I would grieve and feel pain. But I do not fall into the horrible black hole from which there is no escape and for which there seems to be no cause. And of course, the artificial regulation of a body function is never as satisfactory or effective as it would be with a properly functioning body. Just ask any diabetic.
No doubt the drugs are overprescribed. Obviously they don't work for everyone, but they are a godsend for those who need them, and we're getting dammed sick and tired of people who misunderstand either the drugs or the malady which necessitates them. They aren't happy pills or tranquilizers. I can't get over my depressions with exercise, diet, and good mental hygiene. (I know this because I spent large portions, as in years at a time, of my adult life depressed and barely functional. None of that stuff ever helped.) My brain doesn't work right and I take a medication to help it do so. That's IT.
If you want more information on depression try here, here, or here. More information about the new psychopharmaceuticals can be found here. It is very difficult to find unbiased information about SSRIs because so many people seem to have some sort of stake in making them out to be either dangerous or a panacea for all ills. I'm not, of course, unbiased myself. However, if there's anything at all you'd like to ask me, please do and I'll attempt to answer. Really, don't be hesitant; I not only don't mind talking about this, I feel a real responsibility to do so. I'm not embarassed or ashamed or shy about it in any way. So ask away. (Note, however, that abuse will not be tolerated.)