Have millions been taking antidepressants with unsafe side-effects for decades for no reason?

Like countless people who seek help from their GPs for depression, Emma Ward was repeatedly informed she was experiencing ‘an inequality of chemicals in the mind’.

If Emma intended to get better, her medical professionals stated the 26-year-old need to keep taking the antidepressants she had actually been prescribed because she was 15– although the medicines did not seem to enhance her mood, and also left her sensation perpetually numb emotionally.

Now, surprising new research study released yesterday shows that the concept justifying the numerous prescriptions for antidepressants given out on a monthly basis to clients such as Emma, is merely not true.

The research study confirms what some medical professionals have actually progressively involved think. That the ‘chemical imbalance’ concept– that clinical depression results from an absence of the brain chemical serotonin– is absolutely nothing greater than a misconception.

Stunning new research released yesterday reveals that the theory justifying the numerous prescriptions for antidepressants distributed each month to people such as Emma, is merely not real

This misconception was developed more than 35 years ago by pharmaceutical firms to warrant their products, and also has actually been bolstered ever since by the training as well as method of doctors all over the world. In the most thorough testimonial of the research on links between clinical depression as well as serotonin ever carried out, scientists from the UK, Italy and also Switzerland checked out 17 major worldwide evaluations that had recorded the findings from more than 260 research studies, entailing 300,000 individuals.


Prescription medications aren’t the only NHS-approved therapy readily available for clinical depression. Progressively, doctors are advising other evidence-based solutions. They consist of:

Talking therapies: They’re available on NHS prescription throughout the UK and include whatever from counselling to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which intends to transform the means people consider a scenario, and mindfulness.

Workout classes: Studies reveal the benefit of workout on mood. As well as GPs can now recommend workout for clients complimentary or at a lowered cost. Whether it’s yoga, something or aerobics else will rely on what’s offered in your location.

Walking: If you stay in the Oxford, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and also Gwynedd locations, you’re most likely to be prescribed a stroll to chase the blues away. NHS Forest runs assisted as well as DIY strolls along their ‘Green Health Routes’.

Gardening: Working in a green space assists us unwind, so physicians currently refer patients to work in community gardens. The Lambeth general practitioner Food Co-op plants gardens in GP surgeries and also medical facilities and also states these have actually helped people’s mental wellness.

Swimming: Whether it’s the local swimming pool or the sea, getting in the water improves state of mind. The chillier the better– NHS anaesthetist Dr Mark Harper has assisted establish Chill, which runs sessions around the UK to assist people make the most of the healing capacities of cold water.

Their searchings for, released in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, weaken the basis for decades of recommending of the most commonly used antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs.

‘For years, people have been led to believe that depression is triggered by a chemical discrepancy in the mind, because of a shortage of the chemical serotonin,’ the lead researcher, Professor Joanna Moncrieff, a professor of psychiatry at University College London and a specialist psychiatrist at North East London NHS Foundation Trust, told the Mail.

‘We can safely say that after a huge quantity of research performed over a number of years, there is no convincing evidence that anxiety is caused by serotonin irregularities.’

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that sends messages between nerve cells. The NHS site claims that while ‘it would be as well simple to say anxiety as well as associated psychological wellness conditions are triggered by low serotonin levels … it is assumed SSRIs work by enhancing serotonin levels in the brain’.

The searchings for are a major trouble, because SSRIs account for the majority of antidepressants recommended in the UK, as well as numerous Britons count on them.

Their usage is rising necessarily– of the document 7.4 million antidepressant prescriptions provided in England in March alone, almost 4 million were SSRIs. Most of patients suggested antidepressants are women.

There are currently 8 different SSRIs recommended in the UK, amongst them fluoxetine, the mommy of all SSRIs– much better known as Prozac.

Fluoxetine was created by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly in the very early 1970s, based upon ‘the theory’ that boosting serotonin would assist deal with clinical depression, and it soon became apparent that the company had actually struck gold.

According to a 2005 paper, by 2 of Fluoxetine’s developers, ‘earnings from antidepressant sales was valued at much less than $200 million in the very first 8 months of 1975’.

Prozac was accepted for the therapy of anxiety in the U.S. in 1987, and also by 2002 it had actually been prescribed to greater than 40 million patients worldwide, with overall sales of $22 billion.

‘Part of the reason why the story of chemical discrepancies in anxiety has ended up being so common is since it was circulated by drug firms when they were marketing new antidepressants,’ states Dr Mark Horowitz, a co-author of the new research study.

‘Antidepressants have actually been blockbuster medications for the pharmaceutical market, regularly ranking among their most successful.’

In recent years, the ‘chemical inequality’ theory has actually been significantly wondered about. In a placement statement on antidepressants in 2019 the Royal College of Psychiatrists claimed ‘the initial suggestion that antidepressants “remedy a chemical discrepancy in the mind” is an oversimplification’.

The concept is still taught at medical colleges and in psychiatric books. In its advice on treating anxiety in adults, NICE says SSRIs ‘change neuronal transmission in the mind’– to put it simply, they service serotonin levels.

Just a few weeks ago, throughout a meeting on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Dr Nighat Arif, resident general practitioner on both ITV’s This Morning program and BBC Breakfast, was asked why she assumed extra ladies than men were being put on antidepressants.

Stevie Lewis, 66, a previous business consultant was suggested antidepressants after being told she had created a chemical imbalance

Ladies, she claimed, were not only more probable to request assistance, but also ‘recognize that there is a chemical imbalance and antidepressants offered at the correct time will aid with that imbalance’.

And yet ‘it has actually been presumed for some years that the evidence for this “brain discrepancy” does not accumulate,’ states Professor Moncrieff. ‘But nobody has got the proof with each other and also truly took a look at it appropriately.

‘However, now we have and it validates that there is no convincing proof that serotonin is linked with anxiety, and definitely not that low serotonin is a reason for depression.

‘We recommend it is time to recognize that the serotonin concept is not empirically substantiated.’

If the medicines don’t work by taking on a mythological ‘imbalance’, this might clarify previous research which has actually located that SSRIs and various other antidepressants are no far better than a placebo for mild to moderate clinical depression.

According to the brand-new testimonial, antidepressants ‘function’ mostly because people believe they do. The scientists compose: ‘It is often presumed that the effects of antidepressants show that clinical depression has to go to least partially caused by a brain-based chemical abnormality, and that the noticeable efficiency of SSRIs shows serotonin is implicated.

‘Other descriptions for the results of antidepressants have been put forward, consisting of the concept they function via an enhanced placebo impact.’

Also if antidepressants do have a placebo result, they are energetic medicines that can have unpleasant side-effects, consisting of loss of sex drive and emotional feeling numb. Some individuals can likewise battle to come off them due to serious withdrawal signs and symptoms.

Take Emma Ward– she’s an NHS psycho therapist, that makes the way she was treated all the more incredible. We’ve transformed her name to safeguard her identity at her demand.

Several times for many years, Emma had actually attempted to wean herself off the different antidepressants she was placed on as a teen, but she was always beat by the side-effects of withdrawal: ‘it seemed like my brain was submerged in water in an actually choppy sea’.

After that, two months earlier, desperate for help to find off the antidepressant fluoxetine, she talked to her Community Mental Health Team, only to be informed ‘bizarrely, and also infuriatingly, I was just being “immune to getting better” ‘.

By this stage, she ‘d done her own study and also wondered about the chemical inequality concept– ‘however I was informed not counting on it was a sign of paranoid ideas, since the theory was “medically confirmed”. On that basis, they suggested I should start taking anti-psychotics’.

Stevie Lewis, 66, a former company specialist was recommended antidepressants after being told she had established a chemical imbalance.

Currently an advocate versus the overuse of antidepressants and also a board member of the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, Stevie was on an SSRI for 17 years, most of which she spent ‘stopping working and also attempting to quit’ since the withdrawal effects were so severe.

‘I am annoyed that I therefore lots of other individuals have been persuaded to take a medicine based on unproven scientific research,’ claims Stevie, from Catbrook, Monmouthshire.


Michele Cornely-Lewis, 49, is an exams invigilator. She lives with her partner and little girl, 14, in Broxbourne, Herts, She says:

Nearly 20 years ago my father dropped dead and I was dived right into deep sorrow and was suicidal. For 6 months I struggled on, yet needed expert help.

When I saw my general practitioner I sobbed for what felt like an hour. He concurred I was severely dispirited. He signed me off benefit 2 weeks, began me on 20 mg fluoxetine as well as recommended I do even more workout and also consume healthily.

Within two weeks it felt like the haze I ‘d been wading through was lifting. I think it was the antidepressants that enabled me to deal.

Years later I discouraged myself off them as I didn’t believe it was healthy and balanced to be on antidepressants forever. As well as for some time I felt much better. Yet then my little girl was born with a heart condition. She nearly died several times and also I shed my hair with the stress. I felt myself entering into a dark hole as well as was hiring ill.

I understood what was taking place as well as mosted likely to my general practitioner, that suggested the exact same antidepressant. But this time around he claimed that I shouldn’t tax myself to find off them once again. I might take them for life– to ensure that’s what I do.

I don’t have any need to quit, despite the tale concerning their performance. The fact they help me is what’s crucial. I have no side-effects and also will certainly take them for as lengthy as I need.

Females are more likely to be paying the rate for the medical profession’s adherence to the misconception of chemical discrepancy, for the straightforward factor that more ladies than males are suggested antidepressants.

A survey by the Women’s Nutritional Advisory Service in 2019 discovered that 40 per cent of females experiencing perimenopause were prescribed antidepressants to aid handle their (hormonal) signs and symptoms. A research this year found ladies were greater than two times as likely to be diagnosed with anxiousness and prescribed antidepressants. Teacher Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), claimed this was because females are ‘much more comfy looking for aid for mental health problems’ than guys.

Stevie Lewis was very first suggested antidepressants in 1996, when she was 41, as well as started experiencing recurring sleeplessness as well as unexplained anxiousness once a month.

‘I currently recognize I was undergoing the timeless perimenopause, however it wasn’t reviewed in those days. Rather, I was informed I got on the edge of a nervous break down, that I had a chemical imbalance in my mind and that these tablets would fix it.

‘What amazes me is that physicians, who are expected to be scientists, have actually perpetuated this story for the best part of 30 years. It is shameful.’

Revealed the brand-new research study by Good Health, Dr Arif claimed that like legions of physicians before her, she ‘d been taught ‘that clinical depression is caused by low serotonin’.

She included: ‘If newer research is fixing this long-held idea, then I welcome the conversation as well as will certainly look once more at how I connect just how antidepressants work with my people.’

Lead scientist behind the new testimonial, Dr Horowitz, a training psychiatrist and medical study fellow in psychiatry at University College London, said that throughout his training he, also, was instructed clinical depression was triggered by reduced serotonin– ‘I also instructed this to students in my own talks’.

Now, he claims, ‘it seems like whatever I believed I knew has been turned upside down’.

Professor Moncrieff says: ‘We do not understand what antidepressants are doing to the mind, and also giving people misinformation avoids them from making a notified decision about whether to take them or otherwise.’

What emerged from the brand-new research study was ‘just how strong an impact negative life occasions played in anxiety, recommending reduced state of mind is an action to individuals’s lives as well as can not be come down to a basic chemical formula’, the scientists kept in mind.

Surveys have revealed the vast bulk of individuals believe their depression is created by reduced serotonin or a chemical imbalance.

‘This idea,’ state the writers, ‘has actually been shown to cause a downhearted outlook on the likelihood of healing.’

In June 2022, NICE provided its first brand-new guidance in 12 years on dealing with anxiety, suggesting that SSRIs ought to be thought about as the first-choice antidepressant for much more serious individuals.

It says its recommendations were ‘arrived at after careful factor to consider of the proof available’, and also a speaker informed the Mail that ‘our referrals were based upon the proof of efficiency’.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists said: ‘Antidepressants are an efficient, NICE-recommended treatment for clinical depression. We would not suggest for anybody to stop taking their antidepressants based on this evaluation.’

Teacher Marshall of the RCGP said: ‘This research is challenging, as well as it’s vital it is taken into account as clinical standards are created and upgraded.

‘Patients should not be concerned concerning taking antidepressants as a result, however if they are, they ought to continue to take them as suggested and discuss this with their medical professional at their following appointment.’

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