The reason that I am writing this paper about antidepressants is that depression has long been a major part of my life. It has plagued my family and I for as long as I can remember, whether it be clinical, stress related, or any of a litany of other factors. I can look at my family and friends and see all different levels of depression. I know that it can be very disheartening to live a life of melancholy because I, myself, have lived with depression and anxiety for many years. I have had several recommendations from doctors over the past decade or so to take trial prescriptions of antidepressants to see if they would help me. I declined each time because I did not feel comfortable with what the sideeffects might be, since I had no knowledge on the subject. My goal in doing this research is to gain more knowledge about these drugs.What are the psychological and physiological effects of antidepressants? What chemicals are used to create these medications and how do they work to fix the chemical imbalance commonly associated with psychological disorders? Is it possible that flooding the brain with such chemicals will only serve to do more harm than good? I would also like to know if antidepressants are at all addictive.
Before I begin my research, I must go over what I already know and what I have considered about antidepressants. First, antidepressants are most often prescribed to people that have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety. These psychological diseases are thought to caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. From the pamphlets and commercials I have seen over the years I know that the main chemical which antidepressants focus on is called
Serotonin, which like most chemicals in the brain, is a neurotransmitter. My first goal for research is to be certain of what Serotonin does.
In the book
The Encyclopedia of The Brain and Brain Disorders
, Serotonin is defined as
“a chemical that is found in many tissues of the body. In the brain, Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter that is believed to be involved in mood states and consciousness” (Turkington,
36). Also, an article in the
American Journal of Psychiatry noted that
“there is mounting evidence that genetic variance in the promoter region of the serotonin transporter protein gene is associated with differences in human mood, temperament, and response to stress, suggesting this may be an important genetic variant for human behavior” (Hariri).
statements about Serotonin having a role in mood states and temperament seemed to confirm my previous thoughts that the neurochemical is a target of antidepressants.
The next step in my research at this point was to find out for sure whether or not
Serotonin is in fact the chemical these drugs are after. This idea was confirmed in
Antidepressant Fact Book by Dr. Peter Breggin where a statement reads as follows:
When it [Serotonin] was also found to function as a neurotransmitter in the brain, Eli Lilly and Co. decided to make a drug aimed at increasing Serotonin in the brain. The drug company was inspired by highly theoretical speculations about the role of Serotonin in the brain. Eli Lilly and Co. anticipated that creating a drug to selectively stimulate Serotonin nerve transmission would result in a marketable antidepressant. (Breggin, 30)
It should be noted that while this passage does confirm a link between Serotonin and antidepressants, I have found that there are different types of antidepressants that target several different neurochemicals. For the rest of this paper, however, I will focus on the effects of Serotonin based antidepressants, known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or
After narrowing my research to SSRIs, I decided to take a look into how they work. An article entitled
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors explains that they work by acting “ on one particular neurotransmitter,