The innumerable side effects now associated with Prozac raise the question of whether depression can be successfully treated by any drug at all. MIND, the association for mental health, terms administering a drug for depression "biological reductionism" a poor substitute for the loving care of friends, the professional counselling and the individual's development of the inner resources required to combat any depression that is not purely physical in origin.
Depression is oftentimes an utterly appropriate response to a sudden life crisis, such as divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job. Depression is usually defined as emotional shock a sadness so profound that it impairs normal functioning. Some of the accompanying symptoms include: difficulty concentrating, thoughts of suicide, changes in sleeping habits (decreased or increased need for), changes in weight (gain or loss), feelings of being out of control, self castigation and guilt. A drug may help someone to cope for a short time, but it cannot replace the simple process of coming to terms with the loss.
In many cases, depression can be caused by other drugs. According to the Health Research Group, the American Ralph Nader founded lobby organization, depression can come on after the introduction of certain drugs. Fifteen categories of drugs can bring on depression, including barbiturates, tranquillizers, beta blockers, heart drugs, particularly those containing reserpine, drugs used to treat cardiac arhythmias, ulcer drugs, high blood pressure drugs, corticosteroids, antiparkinsonian drugs, amphetamines, painkillers, arthritis drugs, anticonvulsants, antibiotics, and drugs to treat slipped discs or alcoholism. (see box, p 3 for HRG's specific listing of drugs). If your feelings of depression have come on about the time you started on a new drug, look first to that drug as the cause.
Unfortunately, in too many cases, the treatment for drug induced depression unrecognized as such is an antidepressive, which can react with the original drug and cause further physical or mental problems. The only treatment for this kind of depression is to stop or gradually cut down on the original drug or, if absolutely necessary, to switch to a similar acting drug that will not cause depression.
Certain illnesses can also bring on depression. In Worst Pills, Best Pills, the HRG says that several medical conditions can cause depression. These include problems with thyroid, certain cancers (pancreatic, bowel, lymph node or brain), hepatitis or viral pneumonias, strokes, or Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease. In the case of Parkinson's, both the illness and the "cure" (antiparkinsonian drugs) can bring on depression. In many self limiting diseases, antidepressant drugs will only create new illnesses.
The older antidepressant drugs also carry a host of side effects. In case this puts you off the newfangled drugs and makes you opt for the tried and tested tricyclic drugs, they have their own problems. These include confusion, memory problems, delirum, disorientation, inability to concentrate, dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, increased body temperature, difficulty urinating, sexual dysfunction, worsening of glaucoma, sleeplessness, agitation, uncontrolled muscle movements, and tingling in the extremities. Again, some of these side effects are identical to the symptoms the depressed person is being treated for! You also have to be wary of "hypotensive effects" that is, sudden, drug induced drops in blood pressure that occur when you stand up suddenly. These can result in injuries, heart attacks or strokes. And because they can cause the heart to race, the drugs are especially dangerous for people with heart problems.