Mental health conditions such as depression affect millions of people worldwide. In many areas around the globe, people who need mental health care don’t have access to it. In others, people who have access to treatment tools don’t use them — even when they’re proven to work.
Here in the United States, doctors turn to a variety of prescription drugs to help people reach better states of mental well-being. For those who don’t respond to more conventional options, researchers continue to look into more alternative — and highly controversial — therapies. Would you try any of them?
What causes depression?
Doctors believe depression is both a chemical and biological condition. Your brain depends on certain chemicals and neurological pathways to function normally, and when it can’t regulate your mood properly, you can start to feel fatigued, irritable, and even hopeless.
This is why so many depression treatments involve drugs. They’re an attempt to restore a sense of order in your brain, so to speak. But do they actually work?
Next: Can psychedelic drugs treat depression? Probably.
Psilocybin, a.k.a. ‘magic mushrooms’
Researchers studied the impact of this chemical compound on people with chronic depression. They found that taking the drug in “therapeutic doses” managed to reduce symptoms for a short period of time. It’s only been studied in small groups of people so far, but results look promising.
For the record, these treatments are still experimental, meant for people who don’t respond well to more traditional forms of therapy. Doctors aren’t necessarily saying psychedelics are the way to go.
Next: If you’ve ever had surgery, you’ve been exposed to this drug.
This drug is most commonly used in hospital settings as an anesthetic. It’s sometimes used illegally because of its hallucinogenic effects. More and more, however, doctors are prescribing it to treat severe depression symptoms.
A small study explored ketamine’s effects on depression and found it might be a useful addition to future treatments.
Next: Is this really the “miracle drug” they say it is?
Marijuana and depression might share an unexpected link — and it’s probably not the news you wanted to hear.
In some cases, treating your depression symptoms with this drug can worsen your symptoms. Marijuana has very specific effects on the brain, but at the same time, everyone responds to every drug differently. You might be on board with this method, but your doctor might not fully agree.
Next: People worry about the side effects of this common drug, but most shouldn’t.
Research suggests antidepressants do work as intended — but no single treatment can have the same effect on every individual who tries them.
Some antidepressant medications have serious side effects, and might even worsen some people’s symptoms, which is why many seek other, more “natural” forms of therapy. Usually, antidepressants work best when paired with other forms of treatment, like psychotherapy.
Next: A staggering number of people struggle with depression.
Depression might be more common than you think
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, about 16.1 U.S. adults live with major depression. It’s the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 to 45, and is actually one of the most common mental health conditions in the country.
Mental Health America states that only a third of those living with severe depression actually seek treatment from a mental health professional, medicinal and otherwise.
Next: Is there a cure?
Can medications cure someone’s depression?
Is it possible to go into “remission” when you have depression, the same way many people with cancer do when they no longer have it? In some cases, it is. But many people continue taking medications and going to therapy for the rest of their lives, even after they’re relieved of most symptoms.
Most experts agree that an individualized combination of drug and other therapeutic treatments provide the best possible outcomes. It’s not one change, but many, that help people get through their daily lives.
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