In a study sure to stir up the winds of controversy, McMaster researcher Paul Andrews concludes that people who use antidepressants are more likely to experience a relapse of major depression after they have stopped their course of medication, than those who did not take antidepressants.
In an article published in Frontiers in Psychology, Andrews and fellow researchers analyzed previously published studies comparing outcomes for patients who were prescribed antidepressants versus those who were given placebos. Comparisons were made between subjects who were prescribed medication and switched to placebos; subjects who were prescribed medication throughout the whole course of their treatment; and subjects who were prescribed placebos for the entire duration of time.
The meta-analysis found that patients who finished a course of antidepressants had a 42 per cent or higher risk of relapse, compared to a 25 per cent risk for those who had not taken any medication for their depression.
Andrews is an evolutionary psychologist and believes that depression may actually be the body’s natural defense against an emotionally traumatic event. As such, it may actually be a beneficial – albeit painful – state that the brain uses to cope with the stress. He likens this reaction to that of fever, a physiologic response to infection.
He goes on to say that antidepressants interfere with the brain’s innate ability to self-regulate serotonin and other neurotransmitters. This disruption leaves a person vulnerable to rebound depression after they complete their course of antidepressant medication.
See: Michael C. Neale, Charles O. Gardner, Lisa J. Halberstadt, Susan G. Kornstein, Paul W. Andrews. Blue Again: Perturbational Effects of Antidepressants Suggest Monoaminergic Homeostasis in Major Depression.Frontiers in Psychology, 2011; 2