Natural Alternatives to Prozac

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Overview

Though millions of depressed Americans take Prozac safely and successully, many others suffer uncomfortable or even dangerous side effects. But they needn't despair: In this comprehensive guide to relieving depression without pharmaceuticals, Michael Murray, N.D., explains the disorder itself and various exacerbating factors, including tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine; lists a range of new treatments known to produce the theraputic effects of Prozac, from St. John's Wort and Ginkgo Biloba extract to exercise ...

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Overview

Though millions of depressed Americans take Prozac safely and successully, many others suffer uncomfortable or even dangerous side effects. But they needn't despair: In this comprehensive guide to relieving depression without pharmaceuticals, Michael Murray, N.D., explains the disorder itself and various exacerbating factors, including tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine; lists a range of new treatments known to produce the theraputic effects of Prozac, from St. John's Wort and Ginkgo Biloba extract to exercise programs and guided imagery, as well as the pros and cons of the much-touted "miracle drug" melatonin. Filled with detailed, practical information, this is a useful resource for anyone seeking an alternative to Prozac.

Prozac is the most commonly prescribed drug for depression, with more than six million Americans taking it regularly. Now, naturopathic physician Michael T. Murray offers safe and effective alternatives to Prozac, including herbs, extracts, vitamins, and minerals, for people who want to be free of depression naturally.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688166281
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1ST QUILL
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael T. Murray, N.D., teaches at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. In addition to practicing medicine, he is the author of fourteen books, including A Textbook of Natural Medicine. He lives in Bellevue, Washington.

Michael T. Murray, N.D., teaches at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. In addition to practicing medicine, he is the author of fourteen books, including A Textbook of Natural Medicine. He lives in Bellevue, Washington.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Prozac Phenomenon

Hailed as a medical miracle by many and a dangerous psychoactive drug by others, Prozac is perhaps the most controversial drug ever marketed. Developed by Eli Lilly and Company, Prozac was launched in the United States in 1987 after fifteen years of clinical research. It has quickly become the most widely prescribed (and most profitable) antidepressant drug. Despite the tremendous publicity, Prozac is not a panacea for depression. In fact, it is no more effective than other antidepressants, including drugs that have been around since the 1950s. Prozac may not be more effective, but it is more expensive. The monthly cost for Prozac can range between $50 and $200 depending upon dosage while by comparison the monthly cost is around $7 for a generic tricyclic antidepressant. Detailed clinical studies indicate that roughly one-third of patients with depression will either not be helped by Prozac and other anti depressant drugs or will be unable to tolerate its side effects.

Why is Prozac so popular? The media has played a major role by publishing articles labeling Prozac as a major breakthrough in the treatment of depression. The public, hungry for information on this miracle "happy pill," kept psychiatrist Peter Kramer's pro-Prozac book, Listening to Prozac, on the New York Times best-seller list for nearly four months. In Kramer's book he advocated the use of Prozac for "cosmetic psychopharmacology" or as a "personality pill" in helping a normal person develop a more "socially rewarding personality." According to Dr. Kramer, "Prozac seems to fire confidence to the habitually timid, tomake the sensitive brash, to lend the introvert the social skills of a salesman." Of course Dr. Kramer also points out that not all patients respond this way.

Another reason for its widespread popularity is that Prozac, as well as other antidepressant drugs, fits nicely into the dominant theoretical model of depression — the "biogenic amine" hypothesis. This model focuses more on biochemical factors in the brain causing depression rather than psychological factors. Perhaps the main reason this model is so popular is that it is a better fit for drug therapy. According to the biogenic amine hypothesis, depression is due to a biochemical deficiency characterized by imbalances of amino acids, which form neurotransmitters known as monoamines. Monoamines include serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

Environmental, nutritional, psychological, and genetic factors can all lead to an imbalance in the monoamines, which might result in depression. Monoamine neurotransmitters are released by brain cells to carry a chemical message by binding to receptor sites on neighboring brain cells. Almost as soon as the monoamine is released, enzymes are at work that will either breakdown the monoamine or work to uptake the monoamine back into the brain cell. Different antidepressant drugs act by increasing different monoamines in the brain by blocking either the re-uptake or the breakdown or by enhancing the effect of a specific monoamine.

It is interesting to note that the monoamines are manufactured from dietary amino acids, the building block molecules of proteins. For example, the amino acid tryptophan serves as the precursor to serotonin and melatonin, while phenylalanine and tyrosine are precursors to dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These amino acids have proven to be effective natural antidepressants and are discussed in chapter 9.

How Does Prozac Work?

Prozac works by specifically inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin at the nerve endings in the brain. As a result more serotonin is likely to bind to receptor sites on brain cells and transmit the serotonin signal. Serotonin is a very important neurotransmitter. It is the brain's own natural antidepressant and tranquilizer. A decrease in serotonin function is thought to be a major cause of depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Prozac and several other drugs (e.g., Effexor, Paxil, and Zoloft) are technically classified as a "selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor" (SSRI). Other antidepressant drugs are classified according to their chemical structure and/or mechanism of action. Tricyclic drugs such as amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep) are also thought to inhibit the re-uptake of serotonin, but they are less selective than the newer drugs in that they also inhibit the re-uptake of norepinephrine. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors, such as phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate), inhibit an enzyme (MAO type A) responsible for the breakdown of all monoamines; as a result levels of all monoamines are increased. Two other drugs, bupropion (Wellbutrin) and trazodone (Desyrel), are classified as miscellaneous antidepressants, although trazodone has exhibited selective serotonin re-uptake inhibition, and bupropion has been shown to inhibit the re-uptake of both serotonin and epinephrine.

Prozac and other antidepressants typically require at least a two-week period before any effects are observed.

Copyright ) 1996 by Michael T Murray

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Table of Contents

Preface
Before You Read On
Ch. 1 The Prozac Phenomenon 1
Ch. 2 A Different View of Depression 14
Ch. 3 Ruling Out an Organic Cause 55
Ch. 4 Lifestyle Factors in Depression 82
Ch. 5 Nutritional Factors in Depression 105
Ch. 6 St. John's Wort Extract 130
Ch. 7 Kava Extract 140
Ch. 8 Ginkgo Biloba Extract 152
Ch. 9 Amino Acids 167
Ch. 10 Melatonin 181
Ch. 11 Putting It All Together 188
References 193
Index 213
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2007

    A reviewer

    I found this to be an okay read and worth a look. It does seem to have a few factual mistakes, not including misspellings of common drugs such as nortriptyline. One mistake is that it states that Effexor is an SSRI. Another is that it states that 'it is during REM sleep that we dream', when in fact we also dream during NREM sleep. Mistakes such as these make me wonder about the validity of the rest of the information. The author is also strongly biased against pharmaceutical drugs, which is fine but it would be better to be a bit more objective in the presentation of the information. On the plus side, the book covers a good deal of ground on alternatives to pharmaceuticals in a concise manner. It's an easy read and the author has a pleasant writing style. It contains a number of graphs and charts that facilitate the presentation of the information. Overall, it is worth reading for the purpose of expanding one's knowledge base in the treatment of depression and other mental illnesses.

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