Whenever you notice that someone has depression, a common piece of advice is to ask the person to “seek help”. Get a psychiatrist and go on medication. However, what you may not know is that these medications, or antidepressants, usually take up to 2 to 6 weeks just to take effect, and their effects are not guaranteed. Patients are often shuttled from one drug to another, from tricyclics to SSRIs to MAOIs and even the new-fangled group of “atypical antidepressants”. A depressed patient can potentially go for months without being treated, and to them a day is already an eternity.
So why are antidepressants so unreliable? Well the interesting answer is that psychologists have gone for years without knowing. Antidepressants are supposed to target the serotonin transporter proteins that control the re-uptake of serotonin hormones, meaning they prevent serotonin from being gotten rid of so quickly from the body. They stay in the bloodstream and continue to exercise their effects of making us calm and happy. Theoretically this works, but in practice why does it take weeks just to keep serotonin in the bloodstream? And not only that, scientists have found out that depressed people have the same amount of serotonin turnover as normal people anyway, so it’s not as if that’s causing the depression. However, for lack of a better answer, psychologists cling to these medicines as the treatment for depressed people, since a large percentage of people do get well, eventually. In modern days, though, we shouldn’t cling to tradition that has no scientific basis! We should think of new and potentially creative approaches, shouldn’t we?
So how about drugs?
Ketamine has been found to be effective for bipolar and depressed people, and it works in just 2 hours. Instead of working on the useless serotonin, it works on glutamate instead. Glutamate is the most prevalent neurotransmitter in our bodies, so maybe that is the answer. However, of course it’s pretty laughable to be feeding depressed people drugs and risk them getting high and addicted, not to mention the many health issues that come with it. There has to be more research done, and people have to be forced off their obsession on serotonin, which has been plaguing them for the past 5 decades. No doubt these existing medications are trustworthy, but they are not a revolution. In order to make a breakthrough, paradigms have to be discarded. And we know that in science, that doesn’t happen so easily.