Drugs for Depression: Nothing to Be Ashamed Of

By Dr. Paul Donohue | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 28, 1994 | Go to article overview

Drugs for Depression: Nothing to Be Ashamed Of


Dr. Paul Donohue, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Dear Dr. Donohue: A few years ago, I was treated for depression by my physician. He prescribed Prozac, which turned my life around. I revisited this physician three times for the same reason. Now I've moved and have a new doctor. I am embarrassed to talk to him about this, but I know that if I become severely depressed, I will have to. What do you suggest? How long should I take the medicine? Will I ever get to the point where I won't need it any longer?

Have your medical records sent along to your present doctor. The prior doctor can help communicate your concerns.

Your letter indicates that you have not accepted modern thinking about your problem. Depression is a widespread illness about which we now know quite a bit. It should carry no guilt or shame.

Most patients today have discarded all such excess emotional baggage as yours. They accept the basic facts about depression: It is an illness much like any other, with known causes and acknowledged treatments. Drug therapy is one.

Modern medicine has uncovered chemical changes that occur in depression. It is a disturbance of certain brain "messenger" chemicals. Prozac corrects the imbalance, and that's why you improved with it.

Depression episodes might recur, but that does not mean you will need Prozac continuously. A patient's own experience dictates when he can abandon the drug and still enjoy untroubled life for extended periods of time.

You undoubtedly will have times when you feel a new need for the drug. That is not abnormal, and you should harbor neither shame nor guilt.

We have no precise prescribing guidelines. Early in treatment, some patients take anti-depressants for up to a year, after which they carefully withdraw from use. With frequently recurrent depression, long-term drug therapy might be an option. The secret thereafter lies in early recognition of a new depression episode. …

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