This particular blog article has been written up before on my blog where my book is being displayed and sold with autograph but since so few people understand how SSRIs work, what they do and why, I decided to copy paste the information.
The function of SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), how they work and what they do.
Although the book mentions little about SSRIs (or medications in general), many migraine sufferers end up taking them for life without even knowing what they are. For my biggest surprise, many doctors (including Psychiatrists) have no clue what is actually inhibited and how. In this short paper I would like to call attention to what SSRIs do and why you need to avoid taking them.
In this picture you can see my little sketch of just two brain cells (neurons) communicating via neurotransmitters. One, the yellow on top, has an opening from which many red dots are flowing out. Those are neurotransmitters and for the sake of the argument, let them be serotonin.
The neuron below in green has no such release but as you can see has a blue gate I call “reuptake gates”, as does the yellow neuron above. To understand the function of the gates, think of a bathtub. It has a leaking opening on the top so that if you fill the tub with too much water, the extra flows out into the drainage. This outflow prevents the bathroom from overflowing with water.
The function of the reuptake gates is exactly that: they measure how much serotonin is already flowing between the neurons in the layer separating them. When this layer is full, the reuptake inhibitors send a message to the neuron to stop making more serotonin since there is enough.
The little pink triangles are what I called “Reuptake Plugs.” These plugs are the reuptake inhibitors. In effect they plug up the hole on the tub so any additional water that comes into the full tub, continues to flow and floods the bathroom. When such reuptake inhibitors are used, they plug up the ability of the neuron to feel that it has enough serotonin already made and it continues to manufacture serotonin until it is released from this task—which in the case of taking SSRIs is never.
Thus those who take SSRIs stand a very high chance of an overflow of serotonin in the brain, which can cause very serious harm called by various names: serotonin syndrome (official name), serotonin toxicity, toxidrome (toxic levels of any kind of drug), etc.
Unfortunately, as real as this disease is, few doctors actually accept it as a viable condition. Though the NIH (National Institute of Health) actually has a very strong paper on this subject still most doctors refuse to acknowledge its existence and even if they do acknowledge, they do not recognize it or diagnose it when it happens.
The many drug overdoses of famous actors and singers I guess were not yet enough to make toxidrome into a serious condition enough to pay attention. I suppose more people must die before the consequence of these drugs is taken more seriously. As for serotonin overdose, since serotonin medications are so often prescribed, their ability to cause harm is higher than that of say heroin but because pharmaceutical companies make a lot of money selling them and perhaps the doctors are given the wrong information and/or have ulterior motives, the use of SSRI continues for things it was clearly not intended to be used for.
Year after year hospitals report delirium as a condition in which people die. Delirium is not an illness but a symptom–and in some cases it may be a symptom of a drug overdose, prescribed drug or otherwise, including serotonin. Drug overdoses are simple to detect by a blood test but for some reason many hospitals refuse to test overdoses of legally prescribed medications, such as serotonin! SSRIs are probably among the top prescribed drugs in the US today and the doctors who prescribe them have no way of testing if the patient actually needs it or if it is already prescribed, if the dose given is too high or low. It is not a difficult test; a simple blood test can test for serotonin levels since serotonin has functions everywhere in the body, including digestion and the movement of the intestines that pass the food on. The higher the level of serotonin, the faster the food passes through, leaving many migraine sufferers with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and other digestion issues.
SSRIs are the most common medications prescribed today for depression, migraines, ADD, ADHD and they go under a variety of brand names that you can find at Wikipedia. Yet serotonin has not conclusively been shown to work for any of these. There have been many studies where the numbers were statistically derived in such a way that the benefits appear significant but let me ask you this: Would you take a medication for an infection of your toe that may end up jeopardizing the health of your digestive system? Would you take a medication for a pain in your head that can make you want to commit suicide?
Indeed! Serotonin drugs’ most frequent side effects are suicidal thoughts and irritability.
And there is more to say! The brain is a very adaptive organ as you read it in the book. This adaptability has been very advantageous throughout our evolution but when it comes to drugs that are introduced externally, the adaptation of the brain takes on another meaning. If serotonin is produced by neurons in the brain, that is their task: produce serotonin. They may have other neurotransmitters to produce–many neurons in the brain have multiple functions. Thus if you start taking serotonin in the form of medication, the brain will quickly stop making its serotonin and reassign those neurons to some other task. This is optimization of your brain since resources are limited. The problem happens when you want to stop taking serotonin medication. You now face what is called “withdrawal” even though you were not a drug abuser or an alcoholic. The withdrawal is identical. Your brain needs to relearn how to make serotonin.
Some changes in the brain are temporary and you can in a short time reset the brain to its original functions; some changes are nearly permanent and your recovery is greatly limited if it exists at all. Serotonin falls into this second category. That means that once you started to take serotonin medications–any serotonin medication, need not be SSRIs, your brain may no longer be able to re-learn how to make serotonin ever again–this is likely age dependent as well. A younger brain is more adaptable bidirectionally whereas an older one in decline will adapt to serotonin replacement fast but not to stopping the extra serotonin. It may never be able to go without.
So should you accept an SSRI from a doctor when he/she offers it? My personal take on it is absolutely no.
Foods that boost serotonin levels
Are there foods containing serotonin that you can eat? You bet there are. Visit this wiki site to find out what foods you can eat if you feel depressed and perhaps are low in serotonin.
Are there people who are clinically depressed who may need serotonin medicines? I am sure there are. I saw many on television: they spend all day in bed, cry, want to be alone, etc. Has it ever been asked WHY those people have depression? Nope. Would it be better to find out why than to drug them up? Yep; you bet!
Think twice before you accept any medications or supplements–and remember that herbs are medications we know nothing about! Most drugs today at one point were herbs and then the drug companies started to mass produce them, test them, and legalized them. At that point an herb becomes a medicine. But all medicines were herbs! Do not forget that!