A new study shows that there is no evidence for depression being caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain.
“For three decades, people have been deluged with information suggesting that depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain—namely an imbalance of a brain chemical called serotonin. However, our latest research review shows that the evidence does not support it”, write Joanna Moncrieff and Mark Horowitz on the Medical Express.
But despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, scientists and patients still continue to believe that these drugs work. Why is this belief so deeply engrained in our mind?
I dare to state that it is the natural outgrowth of a physicalist culture. We are living in times when everything is reduced to chemistry, molecules, cells. A neurocentric culture which believes that whatever state of mind we have, it is nothing else than brain chemistry. Therefore, depression MUST be only a matter of chemistry, and we MUST find the drug against it. If we are unsuccessful, we have to insist and insist forever until we find the miraculous pill.
This insistence on trying to find for the antidepressant, despite all the evidence indicating the futility of this goal, isn’t driven only big pharma’s financial interests (yes, it is, but that’s not the whole story). It is also backed and nurtured by our own widespread physicalist belief in the mind-brain-body identity. It is in itself a deeply metaphysical assumption. However, I’m quite convinced that, once we will no longer take it for granted, also the drugs lobby will lose its momentum, and won’t be able to get away with another 30 years wasting enormous amounts of money and time in a pharmacological research that pursues a vain chimera. In other words, what drives this sort of research isn’t based on rational thinking or pure science, and even not solely financial interests, but is heavily influenced by our culture, our mindset, how we see the world and ourselves. There are deep cultural and sociological factors that drive scientific research.
The question then is if this is the case only with antidepressants, or is it a much more widespread self-suggestion with many other illnesses as well? If the mind is so powerful in determining our wellbeing, just imagine what we could achieve if, instead of having that blind faith in a physicalist conception according to which chemistry is supposed to fix everything, we would replace that belief with another self-suggestion, namely that thoughts can heal us. I know that almost every one would nod and say, “yes, true”, but then we continue to stubbornly ask for the pill.