Study Shows Blind Reliance on Antidepressants

There is a disturbing new study just out. It's regarding the over-prescribing of antidepressant medicines. In the August 8, 2011, issue of journal Health Affairs, was an article entitled “The Proportion of Anti-depressants Prescribed Without a Psychiatric Diagnosis is Growing.”The authors of this study point out that over the past two decades the use of antidepressant medication has grown to the point that they are and now the third most commonly prescribed class of medications in the United States. They further point out that much of this growth has been driven by a substantial increase in antidepressant prescriptions on the part of non-psychiatrist providers. Furthermore these providers have written their prescriptions without an accompanying psychiatric diagnosis. In other words, people are frequently being given a prescription for a mood-altering depression treatment, without being diagnosed with depression.This is a huge problem.  Medical researchers know that up to 40 percent of people suffering with fatigue, lack of motivation, low mood, and brain fog are actually dealing with the mental symptoms of a physical illness. Several good controlled studies have indicated that endocrine disorders in general, and thyroid imbalances in particular, are the most frequent medical conditions causing mental symptoms.Depression is the most common psychiatric condition in the general population. It also happens to be the most common mental symptom of extremely widespread thyroid disease.  This kind of miss-diagnosis has several unfortunate results. First, The physical illness is never fully treated by the mental medicine. This is commonly why people complain that the antidepressants are not doing a very good job. Another unhappy result is that the underlying physical illness now stays undiagnosed.  In this way it continues under the surface and gets worse and worse as time goes on.A third unfortunate result is that now the person may have to endure the new side effects of antidepressant medicines. These can be mild or definitely annoying or extremely severe.  They range from headache or dry mouth all the way to increased risk of stroke or suicide.And finally, a major unhappy results is the enormous health care cost of these expensive anti-depressant drugs.  Depression due to low thyroid can be treated with levothyroxine for perhaps thirty cents a day.  Treating the same condition with an SSRI antidepressant could cost three dollars a day. In summary, this study reveals an unfortunate national trend that needs to be reversed. Both the consumers and the providers of medical care need to be more aware of the increasingly important but often overlooked overlooked  thyroid connection to mental health.--- Regards and best wishes for your good health alwaysRichard Shames, MD.