I’m not a salesman. In fact, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t sell water in the Sahara. But there’s one thing I do know about sales: the glossier the sales pitch, the shoddier the product.
That’s certainly true of antidepressants on the market today. These slick ad campaigns pull you in and get you thinking, “Maybe I do need a pick-me-up.” Just take one little pill and you’ll turn into a happy, bouncing, smiley face again.
It’s called the art of misdirection. Magicians have used it for centuries. They get your attention with a flourish of their right hand, so you won’t see what’s in the left. Drug makers know their antidepressant doesn’t work much better than a placebo, but golly those ads are so darn cute.
Plus, drug makers now have a new tactic: once you get FDA approval, just throw away any data that doesn’t support your product.
In essence that’s what drug makers did for about a third of all the data they collected during clinical trials of many different antidepressant drugs. That’s according to a report out in last month’s Journal of American Medicine analyzing data for 12 different drugs in 74 clinical trials.
I wanna know what’s in Big Pharma‘s trashcan
I know, you’re wondering how can 1/3 of the data just—poof—disappear. Well, it’s much easier than you think. Let me explain…
If you review all the published data on antidepressants, you’ll see that about 60 percent of people taking them experience significant relief from depression. About 40 percent of people taking a placebo start to feel better. Not bad, right? The drugs work about 20 percent better than a sugar pill.
Well, it turns out, that’s not the whole story.
Drug makers must conduct dozens of clinical trials before getting FDA approval. Some of the results get published in medical journals and some just get filed away in a cabinet, never to be seen again.
Any guesses which studies get filed away? You got it, the ones that don’t make you “happy.”
In fact, according to the JAMA report, 94 percent of studies showing positive results for antidepressants got published. Meanwhile, just 14 percent of those with disappointing or uncertain results got published.
So when you take the negative results into account, antidepressants sound far less appealing. The drugs still outperform placebos, but by a far more modest margin. To be honest, I doubt the integrity of most of the data on antidepressants (published or unpublished!).
Drug companies certainly are masters of “misdirection,” but don’t be fooled. You can overcome depression without drugs.
Ideally, depression can be averted by following a nutritious diet.
One of the best ways to maintain your mood and sense of well-being on a day to day basis is to get more omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrition, women who have the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids reduce their depression by nearly 30 percent!
When you consider that many popular SSRI antidepressant drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) barely outperform sugar pills in clinical testing, a regimen of omega-3 fatty acids might be a better alternative, especially for someone suffering from mild or moderate depression.
We talked about fatty acids in the Guide to Good Health from two weeks ago. Fish oil is the best source. But most of us don’t eat enough fish to really boost omega-3s, so I usually recommend a high-quality fish oil supplement. But, remember fatty acids increase free radicals in your body. Unchecked, these molecules can cause cancer and disease in the body. So always take some extra antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium along with the fish oil to neutralize the free radicals.
What about supplements?
If depression‘s really got a hold of you, you must get help from a qualified physician. However, there are non-prescription alternatives that can be most helpful, such as taking St. John’s Wort. Ignore the naysayers because there’s plenty of hard data showing that it does give you a boost. I’d go for 300 mg of a 0.3% standardized extract three times a day. Avoid amino acid supplements and extended sun exposure during the trial, as these may lessen the therapeutic effect. Unlike antidepressant drugs, which can take 30 days to take effect, St. John’s Wort starts working in a few days.
You could also try the amino acid SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine) at 400 to 1200 mg/per day. It’s more expensive than St. John’s Wort, but highly effective and has been used a lot in Europe to naturally correct depression. Some nutritionists believe it’s best suited to treat depression expressed as low energy and low motivation unrelated to anxiety.
Tryptophan and DLPA (dl-phenylalanine) are two more amino acids that can be effective in improving depression if taken between meals (but not along with the other efforts).
Given the safety issues and efficacy questions for most prescription drugs on the market, you’re much smarter to give these natural options a try first. In my opinion, they’re just as effective—and much safer—than any RX solutions.