When Antidepressants Don’t Work

Thirty million people in the US are taking antidepressants. That is ten percent of the population. Yet serious scientific research has shown that only about ten percent of patients taking antidepressants are achieving better results than taking a placebo.

The best treatment of any disease is to address the cause of the problem. Yet taking a reuptake inhibitor, which is what an antidepressant does, only manipulates the symptoms. In fact, it actually makes things worse because it depletes the neurotransmitters in the brain that the body is already deficient in! Neurotransmitters are the chemicals the brain uses to communicate between its cells. When the brain is deficient in them a person often experiences, depression , anxiety or an inability to focus. Many people receive temporary relief from antidepressants, which is important. However taking the antidepressant is actually making the cause of the problem worse by depleting the brain’s neurotransmitter supply even further.

There is only one way to increase the total number of serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine neurotransmitters molecules in the brain. This is by administering proper levels of balanced amino acid precursors which cross the blood brain barrier and are then synthesized into new neurotransmitters. This fact has been known for years. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When protein is digested in the body it is broken down into amino acids. The amino acids tryptophan, tyrosine and dopa are then used by the body to form the most important neurotransmitters which are dopamine, norepinenephrine and serotonin. The most popular antidepressants such as Prozac and Lexapro work by inhibiting the breakdown of serotonin in the brain. In essence they recycle what the brain already has but they don’t add anything new to the system. However, by feeding the body the amino acids tyrosine and dopa in a balanced manner, along with vitamin cofactors, the brain can be given what it needs to make more neurotransmitters. Glutathione is another amino acid which also helps increase brain neurotransmitters, and increasing glutathione in the body also complements feeding the more traditional amino acids tyrosine, tyrptophan and dopa.

Understanding this can help one understand many of the problems seen with antidepressants. Antidepressants such as the SSRI’s and SNRI’s actually deplete the system of its total supply of neurotransmitters. This means that when the patient wants to discontinue the antidepressant he can’t because he still has not built up his supply of neurotransmitters. In practice this is seen quite often. The patient is feeling well until he tries to discontinue the drug. Then all the symptoms of depression return, often with a vengeance. Or the original antidepressant just “stops working” and the patient is switched to a new antidepressant. The reason the original antidepressant stops working is because the brain has run out of the supplies it needs to manufacture neurotransmitters. Usually the solution for this is to switch to a different class of antidepressant. However clearly a smarter solution for this problem would be to give the body what it needs to build the neurotransmitters it is deficient in.

Other benefits of amino acid therapy are that it can help with weight. Neurotransmitters have many functions in the body. Low levels affect our moods. They also influence appetite signals, hormones, and weight regulation. There is a well known correlation between the use of anti-depressants and weight gain. Some people may gain as much as 15-20 pounds, most likely from neurotransmitter depletion stimulating the appetite. Women are particularly affected by this.

Amino acid therapy has also been shown to help with Parkinson’s disease. Amino acid therapy has helped many who were not helped with traditional medications for the illness. With Parkinson’s disease we know that dopamine helps to regulate and calm down hand tremors. Giving the patient dopamine helps with the tremor but the side effect is depression because the serotonin levels are thrown out of whack. When serotonin and dopamine levels are supplied in the right ratios with amino acid therapy, depression is no longer an issue, and hand tremors disappear. This approach seems more logical than treating isolated symptoms with drugs, creating another side effect, and then treating the imbalance with more drugs. Amino acid therapy can also help with ADHD. Since it is not addictive that may be a preferable route for children who are vulnerable to substance abuse. Also since it doesn’t deplete neurotransmitter stores it doesn’t have the “withdrawal and rebound” effect that many children experience when they stop their meds for a weekend or school holiday. Even trichtillomania, a rare disease which manifests in adults and children as compulsive hair pulling and eyebrow plucking, and Tourette’s syndrome which causes involuntary tics, have been helped significantly by amino acid therapy.

It is important to reiterate that amino acids work best when they are in balance. Dr. Marty Hinz found that supplementing only one amino acid, such as taking just L tryptophan found in a health food store to improve sleep, leads to an imbalance and actual depletion of the serotonin system, which can have unintended consequences on mood. Taking the amino acids in the proper proportions leads to balance, and once balance is established hormones are regulated, weight loss occurs, mood is stabilized and other things like insomnia, PMS and ADD can disappear.

Amino acid therapy is the way to actually restore health to a depleted brain. Dr. Mary HInz has stated that “reuptake inhibitors are the only class of drugs in medicine that make the cause of the problem worse (low levels of neurotransmitters) while attempting to address the symptoms. Reuptake inhibitors do nothing to address the cause of the problem when the total number of neurotransmitter levels in the central nervous system is so low that symptoms of disease develop”. That may seem like a radical statement but to anyone who has tried discontinuing their antidepressants and found that they are actually in “withdrawal” from their prescribed treatment his statement probably makes a lot of sense.

Mary Ackerley, MDMary Ackerley MD, MD(H), ABIHM is a classically trained psychiatrist and homeopathic physician who specializes in the holistic treatment of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, digestive disturbances and hormone replacement therapy.

She can be reached through her clinic MyPassion4Health at 520-299-5694 or online at MyPassion4Health.com