Risky proposition: Harvard MD proposes over-the-counter antidepressants, but critics warn of dangers

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otc-antidepressants(NaturalHealth365)  Most people have a bathroom cabinet full of aspirin, antacids, ibuprofen, and a host of other pills designed for treatable conditions that can be self-diagnosed.  These products have been available for dozens, if not 100 years or more because they are marketed as safe when used as directed.

Another class of drugs that exists are prescription medications, which require a visit to a doctor and the doctor’s expert advice to give you the correct medication and dosage for your condition.  If one Harvard scientist gets their way, however, antidepressants will become an over-the-counter medication very soon.

While most people can relate to having bouts of depression, self-diagnosing, depression, or anxiety is a risky business and one that can affect every aspect of your life.  Likewise, antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) pose their own safety risks with a multitude of potential interactions and reactions.  Let’s take a look at this medication proposal and why it is dangerously short-sighted.

Will antidepressants become over-the-counter?

The writer of the article we are studying today is a board-certified psychiatrist and a member of the psychiatric board at Harvard Medical School, so his opinion carries quite a bit of weight.  He cites increased amounts of depression in the general population, costs associated with seeing a doctor, if you can even find one, and then additional costs with prescription medication as a reason for making antidepressants available over the counter.

It is difficult to say whether this will become a widespread practice, but a good touchstone is proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).  In the ’90s and before, PPIs were used as a treatment for gastric esophageal reflux disease (GERD), and you needed a prescription, but over time, their ubiquity drove them to become an over-the-counter staple.  We now know that PPIs do horrendous damage to kidneys over long-term usage, as well as quite a few other potential downsides, including cancer risk, but they are still sold over the counter.

Antidepressants work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, which allows it to produce its effects on neurotransmitter receivers.  The theory is that this improves mood, countering depression and anxiety, but the truth is that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are still not very well understood.  Coupled with the fact that they can interact with medications ranging from ADHD treatment to heart, medications of some types mean that it’s a lot more dangerous than just taking antacids or aspirin.

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Why OTC antidepressants are dangerous

One of the first problems with over-the-counter medication, in general, is that it requires you to diagnose yourself.  While this may not be perceived as a dangerous proposition, the truth is: antidepressants are very powerful medications that are not well understood.

Some people who take antidepressants that don’t work well with them have suicidal ideation as well as an increased risk of more or worsening depression, anxiety, agitated impulsiveness, and a slew of other conditions.  Furthermore, it takes weeks for antidepressant medications to work, so you might not know if it’s working, and if you don’t have anyone around to pay attention to your mood or behavior, it might be affecting you negatively without you knowing.  If you were taking this medication over the counter without a doctor checking in on you every month or so in the beginning, it might go unnoticed that the medication is affecting you negatively.

There is also a consideration that SSRIs can interact with medications in a way that creates something called serotonin syndrome.  This can cause a variety of physiological effects, from rapid heart rate to low blood pressure to stroke, coma, and potentially death.  A person who buys antidepressants over the counter might buy different types, as there are many prescription antidepressants on the market.  What’s to stop somebody from taking more than one at a time to try and increase their effects, only to find out that they mix badly and cause serotonin syndrome?

Boost your mood with natural remedies

One theory of depression is that it is an evolutionary trait caused by inflammation, and in prehistory, the inflammation would likely be caused by an infectious disease.  The thought is that depression arose to make the sick person seek isolation such that they would not infect the rest of their family or tribe.

Our modern society causes systemic inflammation through a variety of means, including cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, sedentary lifestyles, and the horrific processed foods that are shoved in our faces 24/7.  Each of these factors causes chronic inflammation throughout the body (especially the brain), which could be a leading factor in the surge of depression cases throughout the globe.

One simple tool that you have available to you is simply changing your lifestyle habits, although it is recognized that depression makes it harder to make positive changes, so it’s a good idea to enlist help.  Simply cutting out highly processed foods, particularly sugar-laden foods and those full of processed seed oils, is a good way to lower systemic inflammation, particularly in your arteries.  An easy way to do this is to focus on whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, pasture raised eggs, and various types of 100% grass fed meat, as long as you can ensure good quality and ideally organic in origin.

Proper amounts of exercise can also help to reduce inflammation and improve your mood.  Many people who are on antidepressants often report an increased effect if they are exercising as well, which leads many researchers to wonder if exercise is all that’s necessary.

Finally, one rampant problem in modern society is a lack of sleep.  Poor quality of sleep hurts your heart, affects long-term memory storage, decreases working memory and mental quickness, and reduces insulin resistance, which leads to obesity, diabetes, and dozens of other health problems.  If your sleep is not good, that is the absolute first thing to work on.  Small amounts of melatonin, natural herbs like chamomile, daily exercise so that your body is tired, and avoiding screens before bed will all dramatically improve your sleep quality.

Simply put, making antidepressants available over-the-counter is a dangerous idea.  But, if you are aware of your mental health situation, and you have friends and family that can help, many instances of depression and anxiety can be eliminated with simple lifestyle changes.  This is also applicable for children with the added caveat of reducing screen time to improve this effect.

You have a lot more power over your body and mind than the pharmaceutical industry would want you to know!

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