In any given 1-year period, 9.5 percent of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults, suffer from depression. 1
The indirect and direct costs of mood disorder illnesses totals over 43 billion dollars a year. Depression and related mood disorders rank behind high blood pressure as the most common reason people visit their doctors.
Most individuals who consult their medical doctor for mood disorders are placed on prescription medications.
And in fact as many as 10% of the U.S. population has taken one of these medications. Prescription antidepressants sales reached a total of 37 billion in sales in 2003, which came out to $9 million more than was spent on treatments for the heart, arteries and blood pressure. 2
The largest growth spurt in antidepressant use has been among preschoolers, ages 2-4. 3
In 2003 over one million American children were taking an antidepressant medication. 4
However, several studies show that between 19-70% of those taking antidepressant medications do just as well by taking a placebo or sugar pill. 5
And while patients are attempting to correct their mood disorders with prescription dugs that may or may not be more effective than a sugar pill, all of these drugs have potential, sometimes serious, side effects.
Prozac has been associated with over 1,734 suicide deaths and over 28,000 adverse reactions.6
Prescription antidepressants can cause depression, anxiety, addiction, suicidal tendencies, tremors or involuntary muscle spasms, and senility. Yes, prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can and do cause depression and anxiety.7
The most popular antidepressant drugs are known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). SSRI’s including the drugs Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Zoloft are supposed to help the brain re-uptake the brain chemical or neurotransmitter known as serotonin. Effexor and Cymbalta, are designed to re-uptake the neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine. Using these drugs is analogous to using a gasoline additive to help your car get more mileage out of the gasoline in the tank.
Unfortunately, many of the individuals who suffer from mood disorders, don’t have any serotonin in their brains to re-uptake. A gasoline additive poured into an empty gasoline tank doesn’t help much, if at all. They may explain why patients often switch from one antidpressant drug to another in hopes of feeling better.
Those suffering from anxiety are commonly prescribed one of the benzodiazepine (tranquilizer) medications including Ativan, Xanax or Klonopin.
National surveys show that 5.6 million adults over the age of 65 are now taking tranquilizers. 8
These medications are associated with numerous unwanted side effects including poor sleep, seizures, mania, depression, suicide, ringing in the ears, amnesia, dizziness, anxiety, disorientation, low blood pressure, nausea, fluid retention, tremors, sexual dysfunction (decreased desire and performance), weakness, somnolence (prolonged drowsiness or a trance-like condition that may continue for a number of days), and headaches.9
Over 73,000 older adults experience drug-induced tardive dyskinesia (tremors or uncontrollable shakes). For many, these tremors are permanent. 10
Fortunately for those looking for a safer, often times more effective way to beat mood disorders, a group of progressive minded physicians helped pioneer a new way of treating mental disorders, known as orthomolecular medicine.
In 1968, two-time Nobel Prize-winner Linus Pauling, Ph.D., originated the term "orthomolecular" to describe an approach to medicine that uses naturally occurring substances normally present in the body. "Ortho" means correct or normal, and orthomolecular physicians recognize that in many cases of physiological and psychological disorders health can be reestablished by properly correcting, or normalizing, the balance of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other similar substances within the body. And unlike drug therapy, which attempts to cover-up the symptoms associated with a mood disorder, orthomolecular medicine seeks to find and correct the cause of the illness.
Amino Acid Therapy
Medical science has now determined that how we feel is largely controlled by the foods we eat and how well these building blocks are converted into brain transmitting chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that control our moods. You may remember that chains of essential and non-essential amino acids make up proteins. Many of these amino acids are converted into neurotransmitters. The brain needs adequate amounts of protein and their amino acids for the production of neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are produced from the amino acids in the foods we eat. Certain amino acids along with B vitamins, and minerals, produce the neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters that cause excitatory reactions are known as catecholamines. Catecholamines, epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline) are derived from the amino acid phenylalanine and tyrosine.
Inhibitory or relaxing neurotransmitters including serotonin, is produced from the amino acid tryptophan.
Supplementing with 5-hydroxytrryptophan (5HTP), a form of tryptophan helps raise serotonin levels. 5HTP is available over-the-counter and works extremely well for most patients.
Studies show that 5HTP can be as effective as antidepressant drug therapy including SSRI medications.11-12
S –adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a potent fast-acting natural antidepressant that is synthesized in the body from the amino acid methionine. SAMe has been proven through over one hundred-plus studies to be an effective over the counter supplement for reversing depression.13-14 Meta-analysis studies showed that 92 percent of those on SAMe improved compared to 85 percent on Elavil or other tricyclic antidepressant drug.15-16
Amino acid replacement therapy offers far less risk and far more long-term benefit than prescription antidepressant drugs alone. With the ever-growing list of mind-altering drugs growing each year, isn’t it time to consider whether the patient has a nutritional insufficiency instead of SSRI deficiency?
1. Robins LN, Regier DA (Eds). Psychiatric Disorders in America, The Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study, 1990; New York: The Free Press.
2. Beth Hawkins, A Pill is not Enough, City Pages.com
Vol 25 issue 1225 Minneapolis MN.
3. JAMA February 23, 2000;283:1025-1030,1059-1060
4. Drug report barred by FDA
Scientist links antidepressants to suicide in kids
Rob Waters, Special to The Chronicle
Sunday, February 1, 2004
5. Joan-Ramone Laporte and Albert Figueras,“Placebo Effects in Psychiatry,”Lancet 334 (1993):1206-8.
6. Death and near death attributed to Prozac, Citizens Commission on Human Rights.
7. Whittle TJ, Wiland Richard, The story behind Prozac the killer drug,
Freedom Magazine, 6331 Hollywood BLVD., suite 1200 Los Angeles, CA 90028.
7. Monthly Prescribing Reference Haymarket Media Publication Nov 2005, New York NY.
8. Sidney Wolfe, Larry Sasich, and Rose-Ellen Hope, Worst Pills Best Pills.
Pocket Books New York, NY 1999 pg179.
9. Sidney Wolfe, Larry Sasich, and Rose-Ellen Hope, Worst Pills Best Pills.
Pocket Books New York, NY 1999 pg11.
10. Sidney Wolfe, Larry Sasich, and Rose-Ellen Hope, Worst Pills Best Pills.
11. Birdsall T., “5-Hydroxytryptophan: A Clinically Effective Serotonin Precursor” Alt Med Rev
12. W. Poldinger, B. Calancini, W. Schwartz, “A functional-dimensional approach to depression: Serotonin deficiency as a target syndrome in comparison of 5HTP and fluvoxamine,” Psychopathology 24 (1991):53-81.
13. Mischoulon D, Fva M. “Role of S-adenosyl-L-methionine in treatment of depression: a review of the evidence.” Am J Clin Nutr 2002 Nov;76(5):11585-615.
14. Bressa, GM. “S-Adenosyl-l-methionine (SAMe) as an antidepressant: meta-analysis of clinical studies.” Acta Neurol. Scand. Suppl. 1994; 154:7-14.
15. Berlanga, C., Ortega-Soto, H.A., Ontiveros M., Senties, H. “Efficacy of S-adenosyl-L-methionine in speeding the onset of action of imipramine. Psychiatry Res. 1992 Dec;44(3):257-62.
16. Meyers, S. “Use of neurotransmitter precursors for treatment of depression.”
Altern. Med. Rev. 2000 Feb; 5(1): 64-71
About Dr. Murphree
Dr. Murphree is a board certified nutritional specialist and chiropractic physician who has been in private practice since 1990. He is the founder and past clinic director for a large integrated medical practice located on the campus of Brookwood Hospital in Birmingham Alabama. The clinic was staffed with medical doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and massage therapists. The clinic combined prescription and natural medicines for acute and chronic illnesses. He is the author of 5 books, "Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," "The Patient's Self-Help Manual for Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome," "Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue The Manual for Non-Allopathic Doctors," "Heart Disease What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You," and "Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression with Orthomolecular Medicine."
In 2003, Dr. Murphree sold his integrative medical practice. He now maintains a busy solo private practice and conducts one and two day doctor continuing education seminars. He can be reached at his clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, by phone 205-879-2383. His website is www.treatingandbeating.com