The Far Right Is Going After Antidepressants 

Right-wing parents are moving on from pearl-clutching over LGBTQ children’s books to (spins wheel) worrying if kids are being prescribed antidepressants without their knowledge


A recent study calling into question the long-held theory that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain is gaining traction on the far right, with some using it to argue that pharmaceutical companies are plying millions of people with useless antidepressants.

The buzz around the University of London study reached a fever pitch this week when right-wing Fox News host Tucker Carlson made it the centerpiece of his show.

“So first we were told that SSRIs would save lives,” Carlson said Monday, referring to the class of drugs known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, the most common form of antidepressant. “Now we learn they don’t actually work as intended. In fact, the whole idea behind the drug was completely wrong. And yet — and here is the best part — people are ignoring this news, and the drugs are still being prescribed.”

While that sentiment is not necessarily exclusive to right-wing media, as evidenced by an extensive and highly controversial reported essay on the supposed dangers of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) published in The Nation earlier this year, it has been pushed primarily in the right-wing media ecosystem, particularly by such GOP figureheads as Tucker Carlson and Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. This narrative reached its apex following the Highland Park mass shooting on July 4th weekend, in which six people, including the parents of a 2-year-old toddler later found wandering the streets, were killed during a parade.

In a broadcast the following day, Carlson blamed the Highland Park shooting on everything but actual guns, including “social media, porn, and video games” and antidepressants. In an extensive rant, he claimed that “crackpots posing as ‘counselors’” are forcing American children to take ‘psychotropic drugs,’” claiming “a lot of young men in America are going nuts” and that “a shockingly large number” of them have been prescribed SSRIs.


From the original Study:

Further research is required to clarify the effects of different drugs on neurochemical systems, including the serotonin system, especially during and after long-term use, as well as the physical and psychological consequences of such effects. This review suggests that the huge research effort based on the serotonin hypothesis has not produced convincing evidence of a biochemical basis to depression. This is consistent with research on many other biological markers [21]. We suggest it is time to acknowledge that the serotonin theory of depression is not empirically substantiated.

Nature

The University of London study, published last week in Nature’s Molecular Psychiatry, found no link between serotonin levels and depression, leading some to the conclusion that antidepressants are doing nothing. But critics of that interpretation argue it doesn’t fully capture the complexities of how antidepressants work on the body.

“It is very clear that people suffering from depressive illness do have some abnormality of brain function, even if we do not yet know what this is, and that antidepressants are effective treatments for severe depression,” said David Curtis, a professor at the University College London Genetics Institute who reviewed the findings.

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