🗳️ You and the Great Serotonin Wars
What do lived experts make of the big new study debunking the 'chemical imbalance' theory of depression?
<Okay, here's a lightning edition to get your views on a big new development. But before you read further, a reminder that I am *NOT* a qualified mental healthcare professional, and nothing here or anywhere else on Sanity is medical advice. *DO NOT* self-medicate or stop medication without talking to your doctor.>
A new mega study on the origins (or not) of depression is breaking the internet.
According to researchers Joanna Moncrieff and Mark Horowitz, the long-held 'chemical imbalance' theory of depression doesn't stand rigorous scrutiny:
"For three decades, people have been deluged with information suggesting that depression is caused by a 'chemical imbalance' in the brain – namely an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin. However, our latest research review shows that the evidence does not support it."
There have been several studies on the subject in the past, but Moncrieff and Horowitz conducted an encyclopaedic 'umbrella' review that systematically identified and collated existing overviews of the evidence from each of the main areas of research into serotonin and depression.
Their findings add to years of criticism that psychiatry, in cahoots with Big Pharma, has been pushing a flimsy biomedical model of depression believed by a vast majority of the general public. And that the vast resources spent in propping up this model could have been better spent in addressing social determinants such as poverty and discrimination.
This regime, the researchers note, has led to an astonishing growth in antidepressant sales: antidepressants are now prescribed to one in six adults in England, for example.
While emphasising that no one should stop taking medication without talking to their doctor first, Moncrieff and Horowitz add:
"It is important that people know that the idea that depression results from a 'chemical imbalance' is hypothetical. And we do not understand what temporarily elevating serotonin or other biochemical changes produced by antidepressants do to the brain. We conclude that it is impossible to say that taking SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) antidepressants is worthwhile, or even completely safe."
To be sure, not every expert completely agrees with the UCL duo. But even as clinicians and academics dominate this vital conversation, I am very interested right now in what you feel.
So, if you are a lived experience expert who's been under treatment for depression, would you please do these two things?
1. Please take my Twitter poll by clicking on the tweet below. The poll will be live until tomorrow.
2. Send me your thoughts on what this latest evidence debunking the 'chemical imbalance' theory means to you as a person under (past/present) treatment for depression. I will compile excerpts from all your responses in a future piece. Let me know if you want me to anynoymise your comments and I will happily take care of it.
Full disclosure: If you are a regular reader, you know that I take antidepressants, and I am not going to throw my pills in the bin. I will be sure to have a chat with my excellent doctor though.