A new umbrella review of studies on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), one of the main medications used for depression, found “no clear evidence” that there is a link between low serotonin levels and depression.
Much of the conservative media in the U.S. took this as confirmation of their negative views of medication for mental illness. SSRIs don’t work!, they shouted. Big pharma is lying to you! STOP TAKING THE MEDS THAT ARE SAVING YOUR LIVES!!!
While one of the people who think life-saving meds for mental illness should disappear seems to be the lead author, the review does not make this claim. In fact, it doesn’t make any new claims. The fact that low serotonin is not the cause of depression is not news to people who actually study this stuff.
The chemical imbalance/low serotonin theory of depression caught on and stuck around because it is an easy explanation and, yes, big pharma likes to spread easy explanations. But the information has always been out there. Maybe this will encourage more studies for other medications to help those with depression survive, but nothing has actually changed here.
The fact that we don’t know exactly why SSRIs work doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be prescribed. Scientists don’t fully understand many of the drugs we take. The general public doesn’t understand even more.
The fact is, SSRIs work for many, many people, and the medication remains just as safe as it was before this review. Maybe we don’t know how or why SSRIs work, but they work.