Monday, January 23, 2012

NPR: Forget the Serotonin Theory of Depression

Alix Spiegel of NPR did a very nice story this morning on the serotonin theory of depression:

She quoted a number of notable psychiatric experts, but sadly not our friends Jeffrey Lacasse and Jon Leo, whom we have cited here previously:

Anyway the news report covered most of the bases--that scientists believe that attributing depression to a deficiency of serotonin is at best overly simplistic and at worst flat wrong; that the low-serotonin narrative for depression caught on with the public (and physicians) because it's simple, and no equally simple narrative is available to take its place; distressed patients really like simple narratives that promise to fix the problem, rather than complex narratives that may be scientifically more accurate; and the serotonin narrative has had both pluses and minuses--the plus being that many no longer see depression as something to be ashamed of or hidden, the minuses being that everyone now seeks a pill for depression despite the fact that pills work badly and have major safety issues, and many non-pill therapies work very well for mild to moderate depression.

Ms. Spiegel left out only one factor--what was the role of pharmaceutical marketing in selling all of us on the nice, simple serotonin narrative? And in making sure we still believe it even after it's debunked?

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