While I have been discussing opioids and their effect on the brain I have also been thinking about antidepressants, specifically SSRIs and the role they play within the brain.
Prior the 1950s, opioids, amphetamine, and methamphetamines were used to treat depression, until researchers discovered that a lack of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline and serotonin causes depression, and that increasing them synthetically in the brain can alleviate depression.
I have clinical depression. I am not sure if I believe that I have had clinical depression or mild depression for my entire life. I have taken antidepressants in the past for “seasonal depression” (non-SSRI) and recently for anxiety (SSRI). I can remember mild depressive episodes in the past, but nothing like I experience now. This makes me wonder what the cause of my major depression is, a few theories I have:
- Taking the SSRI for anxiety after a stressful life event, has caused permanent changes to my brain, causing me to now become dependent on the SSRIs. Believe me, I’ve tried and have been unsuccessful at discontinuing the use.
- I have Multiple Sclerosis, which is an autoimmune disorder of the brain and central nervous system. there is a chance that my neurotransmitters are compromised by damage caused by the disease, which could cause depression. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, “clinical depression—the most severe form—is more frequent among people with MS than it is in the general population or in many other chronic illnesses. “
- I am just straight up broken, caused by poor family genes. One study found that family history doubles the risk of major depression.
So which is it? Maybe it is a combination of some or all of them. My intuition tells me that it a combination of all of them, at least number one and three.
What is an SSRI and how does it work?
SSRI is an abbreviation for Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. SSRIs block the re-absorption (reuptake) of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available. Serotonin is the chemical thought to play a role in mood, although scientists are unsure whether decreased levels of serotonin contribute to depression or depression causes a decrease in serotonin levels.
As I stated previously I took a non-SSRI antidepressant in the past which was Bupropion. Bupropion is in the drug class aminoketones they perform by inhibiting the uptake process of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s “reward” receptors) and norepinephrine (a stress hormone and neurotransmitter). I do not recall any issues with discontinuing the use of this medication. I was on it for a short period of time (winter) and felt I no longer needed it.
I started having anxiety a few years ago as a result of a stressful life event that nearly cost me my life. My doctor suggested that I start taxing Prozac as a way to get through the temporary anxiety. I am no longer anxious, I do not have thoughts of death upon me every moment as I did previously; however, I do struggle with depression. The depression is moderately controlled by the drugs but not completely. I have tried twice now to stop taking the medication. I did it the correct way, by slowly decreasing my dose, so I did not really have many of the associated withdraw symptoms such as headache, fatigue, nausea. I would have good days and bad days but mostly I was angry. I was beyond sad, I felt worthless. I just wanted to be alone, interacting with anyone felt impossible.
I strongly believe that taking an SSRI changed the physical composition of my brain, causing me to become dependent, especially after reading this article from Science Daily that indicates changes in plasticity, caused by chronic SSRI use, were associated with increased anxiety and alternating between periods of hyper or hypo activity.
I am interested in your thoughts. Do you have depression? Do you have MS? Do you have a family history? Tell me about your experiences.