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Revealing the Truth Behind Depression and Chemical Imbalance

Through no fault of their own, there are many uninformed individuals when it comes to what’s happening within the modern day medical industry. It’s an unfortunate fact that medical science has been overwhelmed with scientific fraud, and under pharmaceutical company influence.

When we hear the words “big pharma,” we instantly think of conspiracy theorists. The small group of people and the corporations they hide behind control tremendous amounts of power. However, there have been many physicians and doctors holding influential positions trying to let us know just how deep the betrayal goes.

The betrayal

(Image: 드림포유 via flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0)
‘The medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research.’ (Image: 드림포유 via flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0)

Dr. Marcia Angell, a physician and longtime Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal, wrote in PLoS Med that he believed that half of all the published literature could be false, adding:

Now, don’t get me wrong, depression is a very real condition and remains a major problem. It’s the methods that are commonly used to treat the condition that are being called into question.

Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), Harvard Professor of Medicine and Former Editor-in-Chief of the New England Medical Journal, wrote in a paper titled: “Who pays for the pizza? Redefining the relationships between doctors and drug companies”:

Depression — is it a chemical imbalance?

(Image: Gloria Williams via flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)
‘Of course, there are brain events and biochemical reactions occurring when someone feels depressed, as there are all the time, but no research has ever established that a particular brain state causes, or even correlates with, depression.’ (Image: Gloria Williams via flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

It must be said from the onset that the chemical imbalance theory is just that — a theory — it has never been proven. So with that said, has this theory been pushed as fact? If so, is it being used to push more drugs into the market?

In a blog by National Public Radio’s Alix Spiegel, Joseph Coyle, a neuroscientist from Harvard Medical School, was quoted as saying:

Saying that depression results from a chemical imbalance just simplifies it, and doesn’t tell of just how complex the disease really is. There are many studies that show depression is much more than simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals.

It’s understood that there are several forces that interact to bring on depression; these include faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems, just to name a few.

Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, a British Psychiatrist and author, wrote on her blog:

The evidence supporting the theory

(Image: NIH Image Gallery via flickr/CC BY 2.0)
‘Theories such as low serotonin only came about because scientists observed the effects of the drugs on the brain. It was simply a hypothesis that attempted to explain how the drugs could be fixing something. However, whether or not people actually had lower serotonin levels has yet to be proven.’ (Image: NIH Image Gallery via flickr/CC BY 2.0)

The most common evidence used to support the theory is simply that some drugs have either increased or decreased the mood in human and animal models. While this is true, just because the antidepressants increased and decreased certain chemical levels in the brain still does not prove the chemical imbalance theory of depression.

With today’s technology, we simply cannot determine whether a human has a chemical imbalance or even be able to say what neurotransmitters are involved. It is for this reason that the chemical imbalance theory remains a theory. However, the general public accepts the chemical imbalance theory as fact.

In a feature article, Jonathan Leo & Jeffrey R. Lacasse wrote:

Theories such as low serotonin only came about because scientists observed the effects of the drugs on the brain. It was simply a hypothesis that attempted to explain how the drugs could be fixing something. However, whether or not people actually had lower serotonin levels has yet to be proven. The feature article added:

Antidepressants and the placebo effect

(Image: Sam-Cat via flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0)
‘But analyses of the published data and the unpublished data that were hidden by drug companies reveals that most (if not all) of the benefits are due to the placebo effect.’ (Image: Sam-Cat via flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0)

Pharmaceutical companies have one focus, brain chemistry, even though we know that it is a multifaceted issue that involves many concerns and many chemicals. Focusing on the one chemical imbalance theory, and handing out drugs that actually alter brain chemistry is irresponsible, and has its own dangers.

The irony is that the only thing we know for sure is people who take antidepressants will now have biochemical imbalances without a doubt. That’s right, by telling them that they have a biochemical imbalance and then prescribing them antidepressants, we are actually giving them the biochemical imbalance.

Irving Kirsch, who is a lecturer in medicine at the Harvard Medical School, wrote in a publication:

Kirsch writes how in a 2002 study it was found that 80 percent of the effect of antidepressants, in clinical trials, could be attributed to the placebo effect:

Drug company connections

(Image: Images Money via flickr/CC BY 2.0)
‘Our inquiry into the relationships between DSM panel members and the pharmaceutical industry demonstrates that there are strong financial ties between the industry and those who are responsible for developing and modifying the diagnostic criteria for mental illness.’ (Image: Images Money via flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Antidepressant drugs are the most commonly prescribed drugs in North America, with pharmaceutical companies raking in billions of dollars every year from the sale of antidepressant drugs alone. It should also be mentioned that billions of dollars are also spent marketing and advertising their products.

As a result of Kirsch and his team’s research, the idea that there is scientific literature confirming the benefits of antidepressants has now lost all credibility. By using the Freedom of Information Act, the team was able to access data that pharmaceutical companies had sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to obtain approval for multiple antidepressants.

By doing this, they were able to obtain data on both published and unpublished trials; the team explained:

The data showed only 43 percent of the trials had a statistically significant benefit of drug over placebo; however, the remaining 57 percent had failed. There have been other studies that have also demonstrated the ineffectiveness of antidepressants, and how often this fact is hidden by pharmaceutical companies. The more alarming fact is, studies that have shown anti-depressants can cause real harm are often withheld.

In a study that was published in The British Medical Journal, researchers revealed that pharmaceutical companies were not disclosing all information regarding the results of their drug trials. They discovered that the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports was going unreported.

These reports are relied on by major health authorities like the FDA when determining outcomes. Tamang Sharma, a PhD student at Cochrane and Lead Author of the study, noted that they:

Lisa Cosgrove, a psychologist, and her team investigated financial ties between the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM) panel members and the pharmaceutical industry. What they found was out of the 170 DSM panel members, 95 had one or more financial associations with companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

One hundred percent of the members of the panels on “Mood Disorders” and “Schizophrenia and other Psychotic Disorders” had financial ties to drug companies. The leading categories of financial interest held by panel members were research funding (42 percent), consultancies (22 percent), and speaker’s bureau (16 percent). The team wrote:

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Troy Oakes
Troy was born and raised in Australia and has always wanted to know why and how things work, which led him to his love for science. He is a professional photographer and enjoys taking pictures of Australia's beautiful landscapes. He is also a professional storm chaser where he currently lives in Hervey Bay, Australia.

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