Use of Antidepressants and the Risk of Parkinson's Disease

Volume 6    |    Issue 100

If you or a loved one suffers from chronic depression, you know how hard it can be to break out of it. The last thing you want is for it to get even more complicated and turn into an even worse disease. But for some people with depression, that's a very real possibility.

Medical professionals have known for some time that people with depression are at a much higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease than people without depression. The reason was unclear until researchers began to look at the medications used to treat depression. That's when they realized that antidepressants can cause Parkinson's-like symptoms.

In one study, researchers wanted to find out if antidepressants were the reason people with depression were so prone to develop Parkinson's. So they followed 999 people with Parkinson's and 6,261 controls. They found that there was a strong association with Parkinson's during the first two years after starting the medication. It didn't matter if the participants used selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or tricyclic antidepressants. The results were the same.

Incredibly, the researchers' conclusion in this case didn't say anything about the drugs causing the Parkinson's. Instead, they suggested that depression is an early indicator for Parkinson's. While this is certainly possible, their study wasn't on depression leading to Parkinson's. Their study focused on whether drug treatment led to Parkinson's. And the answer was a clear YES.

The reason the researchers came to this conclusion was that those with depression were more likely to develop Parkinson's than those without depression. But it was obviously the drugs that encouraged the symptoms to develop.

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What most people don't realize is that nearly 10% of Parkinson's cases are not Parkinson's disease at all. They simply have drug-induced Parkinson's-like symptoms. They don't actually have the disease. When they stop taking the medication, the symptoms go away within six months. And antidepressants are some of the offending drugs.

When someone has chronic depression, obviously something is going on in their brain. When you add a drug to the mix, it makes sense that it could cause even more damage. The goal in treating depression is help heal the brain (whether it's a physical, emotional, or spiritual problem) — not just force the symptoms to behave. The official definition of depression as an illness requires that the patient not know why they're depressed. If they can identify why and when they became depressed, then drugs should never be used.

When the patient doesn't know why they're depressed, antidepressants are still rarely, if ever, needed to treat it. There might be rare cases that don't respond to anything but drugs. But those are very rare and the need for drugs is usually temporary. Again, taking them for two years can make things worse.

So when working with patients with depression, doctors should always look to eliminate the possible emotional and spiritual causes before treating for physical problems. This is especially important for doctors that use drugs first. They could be treating an emotional or spiritual problem with a drug that's only going to mask the problem, not solve it. In these cases, I've found that good counseling can solve many of the problems.

Regardless of why someone is depressed, it is possible to support the physical health of the brain at the same time with natural treatments. The evidence that depression leads to Parkinson's shows we can use similar treatments for both. One of the best natural treatments for Parkinson's is amino acids. And the same is true for depression. In fact, some people with depression find a change in their mood within a few minutes of taking amino acids. So if you're depressed, try taking amino acids, such as those found in Perfect Amino. This amino acid formulation is a great treatment for Parkinson's and depression. I'll have more on amino acids for depression in future issues of Nutrient Insider.

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