Health Disruptors,  Mental Health

Antidepressant Alternatives Better Than Prozac

Al Sears, MD, CNS – Most doctors will tell you depression is caused by a “chemical imbalance” in the brain that leads to low serotonin levels. And once you increase your serotonin levels, your depression improves and you feel better.

But this theory is more than 60 years old and doesn’t tell the whole story.

While serotonin may play a role in improving mood, I’m now convinced the extent of the depression-serotonin connection was exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies in order to sell their antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Big Pharma has made a fortune on our modern epidemic of depression. Most doctors are quick to offer not just one but two, or even three pills for everything from low mood to major depression.

And it’s been a huge marketing success. Doctors write more than 250 million prescriptions for SSRIs like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil every year.

But when researchers looked at 38 clinical trials covering 3,000 depressed patients on these drugs, they found that 75% of mood improvement came from the drugs’ placebo effect.1

So you won’t really get better, but you will get a long list of nasty side effects. In addition to headaches, dry mouth, nausea, and stomach upset, these drugs lead to:

Trouble sleeping. Almost 25% of people on antidepressants have a hard time falling asleep. Others report sleep disturbances like nightmares and sleepwalking.

Daytime sleepiness. Some patients also experience a sedation-like effect during the day. In fact, taking an antidepressant significantly increases your chances of being in a car crash due to sleepiness.

Weight gain. About 25% of users gain 10 pounds or more with certain antidepressants.2

Sexual dysfunction. This is the most common side effect — and also the one that bothers patients the most. Up to 70% of patients suffer from a severe decrease in desire or difficulty having an orgasm.3

Stroke and death: A major study shows women taking antidepressants are 45% more likely to have a stroke. And they are 32% more likely to die from any cause.4

I tell my patients that the first thing they need to do to fight depression and improve overall brain activity is to increase the amount of healthy fat – particularly DHA omega-3 – in their diet.

Considering how bad our omega-3 deficiency really is, this alone can have a profound effect. But there are other natural ways to help with depression, too.

Here are a few you can try today.

Relieve Depression Without Big Pharma’s Drugs

    • SAMe. This coenzyme is one of the main building blocks your brain needs to produce neurotransmitters. Although it’s relatively unknown in America, SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) has been used in Europe to treat depression for decades.SAMe raises levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine enhances learning, memory, and motivation and it even helps with attention and sleep. It’s also the key to experiencing pleasure and maintaining an overall sense of well-being and a good mood.In an Ivy League University study, psychiatrists treated 30 patients with major depression who didn’t respond to Big Pharma’s drugs. They gave the patients 800 to 1,600 mg of SAMe daily. After just six weeks, 50% of the patients responded to SAMe. And a remarkable 43% even had a remission of their symptoms!5In another trial, university doctors studied 73 patients who didn’t respond to antidepressants. They added 1,600 mg of SAMe to their daily treatment. After just six weeks, patients adding SAMe had a 105% higher response rate compared to the placebo. They also had a 120% higher remission rate.6I recommend you take 200 mg a day to start. If after two weeks you don’t see big improvement, increase to 400 mg.
    • Magnesium. Low magnesium in the brain is linked to serious depression that resists most drugs. But taking magnesium can quickly help. Research shows it works better than the common antidepressant imipramine with no side effects.Case histories show magnesium supplements can lift major depression in less than seven days. All it took was 125 to 300 mg of magnesium with each meal and at bedtime.I recommend taking between 600 and 1,000 mg of magnesium per day. Look for the glycinate or taurinate forms.
    • Curcumin. Recent studies have found a link between depression and chronic inflammation. Fighting inflammation with a powerful anti-inflammatory like curcumin has been proven to relieve symptoms of depression.

In one study, patients with major depressive disorder were divided into three groups. One group took 20 mg of Prozac every morning. Another group took 500 mg of absorption-enhanced curcumin twice a day. And the third group took both. The curcumin group responded just as well as the Prozac group. But with no side effects.7

And in a UCLA study, adults aged 60-85 were given 400 mg of curcumin for 30 days.8 Results showed improved cognitive function and a general sense of well-being, state of calmness and contentedness.

Look for a supplement with at least 90% curcuminoids. Also make sure it contains a black pepper extract that boosts absorption. Take between 500 to 1,000 mg each day.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD


Al Sears, MD, CNS


1 Kirsch I. “Antidepressants and the placebo effect.” Z Psychol. 2014; 222(3): 128–134.
2 Deshmukh R, Franco K. “Managing weight gain as a side effect of antidepressant therapy.” Cleve Clin J Med. 2003 Jul;70(7):614.
3 Higgins A, Nash M, Lynch AM. “Antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction: impact, effects, and treatment.” Drug Health Patient Saf. 2010;2:141–150.
4 Smoller J, et al. “Antidepressant use and risk of incident cardiovascular morbidity and mortality among postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Study.” Arch Intern Med, 2009; 169 (22): 2128-2139.
5 Alpert JE, Papakostas G, Mischoulon D, et al. “S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) as an adjunct for resistant major depressive disorder: an open trial following partial or nonresponse to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or venlafaxine.” J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2004 Dec;24(6):661-4.
6 Papakostas GI, et al. “S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) augmentation of serotonin reuptake inhibitors for antidepressant nonresponders with major depressive disorder: a double-blind, randomized clinical trial.” Am J Psychiatry. 2010 Aug;167(8):942-8.
7 Sanmukhani J, et al.” Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial.” Phytother Res. 2013;doi:10.1002/ptr.5025.
8 Cox KH, et al. “Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population.” J Psychopharmacol. 2015 May;29(5):642-51.

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