The brutal brain merry-go-round of antidepressants

My daughter recently sang for us a rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game.” She learned it 20 years ago at a summer camp for creative arts on Lake Champlain, Vermont. She attended every summer, just around this time of year, throughout the 1990s.

An excerpt from the song illustrates:

And the seasons they go round and round/
And the painted ponies go up and down/
We’re captive on the carousel of time…”

Those lyrics always cut straight through me. And it reminds me about how antidepressant drugs keep people captive on a brutal merry-go-round — once you get on, you can’t get off. It’s a wonder that we don’t all weep, to know the truth of it.

Rollercoaster reactions

It’s well-known that many — if not most — people experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop taking an antidepressant. These symptoms can include anxiety, attention deficit disorder, insomnia, GI irritability, memory issues, and vivid nightmares.

Withdrawal from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the new class of antidepressants, can be particularly rough. SSRIs aim to increase levels of the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, serotonin. But they also interfere with normal brain metabolism.

In fact, after a few weeks on SSRIs, the brain responds by making less serotonin.

Remember, our brains and bodies naturally work to achieve and maintain a certain balance. So trying to artificially alter brain chemistry is not a solution. Bludgeoning brain chemistry with powerful drugs is like trying to exert force on a fine string.

In fact, new evidence shows that the brain can’t bounce back to normal neurochemistry for months — or even years — after stopping antidepressants.

Tragically, some doctors mistake these withdrawal symptoms for evidence that their patients have relapsed. In an almost knee-jerk reaction, many doctors overcompensate and put their patients back on multiple, different drugs in an attempt to obtain a different clinical result.

Startling statistics

Researchers from the University of Liverpool performed a study with 1,800 New Zealanders who had been prescribed antidepressants, mostly the original “wonder drug,” Prozac.

More than half the participants suffered psychological side effects when they eventually stopped taking the drug.

Not only can antidepressants make the original condition much worse, they can also cause other mental disorders…

In fact, some long-term studies show that people are more likely to have a major relapse if they take an antidepressant than if they don’t. Antidepressants might also contribute to the increases in bipolar disorder, cycling between episodes of high manic moods and low depressive episodes.

In addition, concerns continue to mount about the link among antidepressant drugs, suicides, and even mass homicides. (Meanwhile, the government’s public health experts focused only on firearms as the causes of these tragedies.)

Evidence continues to show that these drugs don’t work as originally intended: to prevent suicide — the one deadly, irreversible result of depression.

In fact, growing evidence shows that these drugs cause the very thing they’re supposed to prevent! I bore witness to the association between suicide and the new antidepressant drugs in my former consulting forensic medical practice 20 years ago. There have also been several studies citing this troubling association, as I have reported over the years.

Even the CDC reports that suicide rates are increasing, which parallels and correlates to increasing prescribed use of antidepressants.

The overall suicide rate increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. That translates to an increase from 10 to 13 victims per 100,000 people in the population. And females between the ages 10 to 14 and 45 to 65 account for the largest increases.

Of course, the CDC offers no explanations.

It seems that government agencies continue to turn a blind eye to these findings. And doctors continue to dole antidepressants out like candy to patients suffering from depression.

Furthermore, the mainstream seems to ignore and disregard evidence for natural approaches to maintain and improve your mood.

If you are susceptible to suffering from depression or know someone who is, give these four natural approaches a chance:

  1. 10,000 IU of vitamin D daily

Most people have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D. Soaking up some sun activates the production of this essential nutrient. Independently, sunshine boosts your mood and your health. Being in Nature also tends to have its own healing properties.

  1. Daily outdoor exercise

Once you are outside, take on some healthy moderate exercise, like walking, swimming, or doing yard work. Studies show exercise works well to help combat depression. You’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something and will also enjoy the rush of endorphins. And the exposure to sunlight will help naturally boost your mood, immunity, and health.

  1. Add fish oil to your regimen

You can also take fish oil, shown to boost mood naturally. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids with a multiplicity of health benefits. Take 2,000 mg per day of a high-quality fish oil, and eat seafood at least two to three times per week.

  1. Herbal remedies for continued support

Several herbal remedies are shown to improve depression, such as St. John’s wort.

For a complete rundown of all of the effective, non-drug approaches for managing your mood and combatting depression, refer back to the January 2017 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. Subscribers can access this issue from the archives by visiting and logging in with their username and password. (And if you’re not already a subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one).

Finally, we should also acknowledge that moods naturally change from year to year, day to day, and hour to hour. In my view, we should all heed the 17th century English poet laureate John Milton who described “Il Penseroso,” the melancholy one.

No one authentically feels rosy and “up” 24/7. Try to think of it as a drive through the rolling hills of the countryside. Sometimes, you’ll hit a down spell. Just keep driving forward and your mood will soon rise again. Remember the well-known quote from Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going…”

The failed drug merry-go-round, keeping you going around in the same place, is certainly not one your mind has to ride for years on end. First, try natural approaches.

And most importantly, if you or a loved struggle with suicidal thoughts, please don’t wait. Help is available now. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK.



Wilson, Clare. (2017 July 10) “People are hacking antidepressant doses to avoid withdrawal.” New Scientist. Retrieved from: