The backward “science” of antidepressants

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) only work for about one out of seven depressed people. And research has shown that one person out of seven only feels marginally better because of the placebo effect.

These antidepressant drugs simply don’t work as promoted. And now we know why…the science is backward.

In fact, in a new report, Dr. Paul Andrews from McMaster University in Canada argues SSRI antidepressant drugs are based on a completely flawed understanding of the brain’s chemistry. (I’ll tell you about the details of Dr. Andrews’ important, new research in a moment.)

I knew something was backward when these terrible drugs first came out in the 1990s. As a consulting forensic medical examiner, I studied their tragic results

Time and again, I saw cases of depressed patients who had harbored suicidal thoughts for years. But somehow, they were making it along. Then, they started to take an SSRI. And, suddenly, they committed suicide.

You see, the real hazard with being depressed–besides feeling bad–is the risk of committing harm to yourself and potentially others. As I’ve said before, it’s difficult to measure or understand mood. But it’s not difficult to measure the ultimate outcome: Whether or not a treatment prevents self-harm and suicide.

Unfortunately, SSRIs don’t prevent that harm. And this new study explains why.

According to a 50-year-old theory, depressed patients have low levels of serotonin–the feel good neurotransmitter–in their brains. So the theory goes that SSRIs work by preventing the reuptake of serotonin by brain cells. This process allows for more serotonin to accumulate in the synaptic space in the brain. In other words, serotonin piles up in the spaces between nerve cells in the brain.

I find it interesting to note how many drugs “work” by interfering with normal metabolic processes. SSRIs block brain cells from normally taking up serotonin. Statin drugs “block” the normal formation of cholesterol. Bone density drugs “block” and kill a whole category of normal bone cells. Is it any wonder these drugs wreak havoc on your health?

Back to SSRIs and the new report by Dr. Andrews.

Dr. Andrews argues depressed patients don’t suffer from low serotonin. He reviewed 50 years of medical research that shows the brain actually releases and uses up more serotonin during depressive episodes. In other words, the evidence shows depressed patients have higher levels of serotonin–not lower. So, if anything, according to this theory, it may be appropriate to try to lower serotonin levels rather than increase them!

Truthfully, measuring mood based on the levels of only one single chemical in the brain is a pathetically inadequate way of understanding or trying to address the human condition. Thankfully, Dr. Andrews seems to understand something that has eluded other experts, and that I have written about for years.

Dr. Andrews asserts, as I have, that depression may be an evolved emotional response to complex problems. And boosting serotonin levels may be the body’s natural solution to deal with those problems. Indeed, many forms of depression–although unhappy and painful–are actually natural and even beneficial adaptations to stress.

For example, if the vicissitudes of life lead us to have thoughts of doing harm to ourselves (or others), depression actually shuts us down. It takes away the energy and motivation to carry out such negative acts. This condition may leave the depressed person feeling immobilized. But experience shows sometimes it’s better to do nothing, at least temporarily, than to do the wrong things.

This new evidence could help explain why these pathetically inadequate “antidepressants” often lead to suicide. They give a short-term, artificial boost in serotonin (in one part of the brain) that provides just enough (albeit misguided) energy to act on the impulse to harm yourself.

Plus, the new research shows SSRIs actually make it harder for patients to recover, especially over the short term. When depressed patients finally do start to feel improvements weeks after starting the SSRIs, it appears their brains are finally overcoming the effects of these drugs, rather than being helped by them.

So, just on that basis alone, these drugs are a failure. Worse yet, some evidence suggests these drugs contribute to mass shootings and homicides, as I first reported in 2013. If only our new “johnny-one-note,” gun control, Surgeon General would consider the possibility that “guns don’t kill people; drugs kill people.”

So what can a depressed patient do?

Dr. Andrews suggests talk therapy. And once again, he’s right on target.

Earlier this month, I told you about a brand-new study from Denmark that proves simply talking to the patient (old-fashioned psychotherapy) is more effective at treating depression than drugs. It’s also more effective at preventing suicide than any drug.

Of course, the patents on these dangerous and ineffective SSRI drugs are beginning to expire, signaling the end of the period of unrestricted, outsized profits to big pharma. No wonder we are finally seeing more of the truth coming out…long after I first exposed it my Insider’s Cures newsletter.

Without a doubt, these antidepressant drugs were a bad idea from the beginning. And now, it appears the theory behind them never had any real evidence.

Fortunately, you have many effective non-drug approaches to deal with depression. To see which approach may work best for you, take the short quiz at and then consider the many “mind-body” therapies now widely available. You can learn all about your mind-body therapy options in my book with Mike Jawer, Your Emotional Type.


  1. “Is serotonin an upper or a downer? The evolution of the serotonergic system and its role in depression and the antidepressant response,” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 2105; 51: 164