Open-access medical journal PLoS Medicine has published an essay on the popular but poorly supported claim that depression is ’caused’ by low serotonin and that some antidepressant drugs correct this ‘chemical imbalance’.
The essay particularly focuses on a class of antidepressant drugs called ‘selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors‘ or SSRIs, that increases the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin available to neurons, by preventing its re-absorption after normal use. Prozac is, perhaps, the most famous example.
The authors contrast the claims of SSRI adverts, that usually claim that depression is caused by a serotonin imbalance in the brain, and the scientific research, that reports little evidence for this link.
Antidepressant medication has been under the spotlight of late, as concerns about safety have been highlighted, and, controversially, two researchers recently questioned the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs outright.
This opinion is not mainstream, however, as the majority of psychiatrists and researchers accept published research that suggests that SSRIs are helpful in treating depression.