Depression is a complex condition that affects one in 13 people in Britain and many more around the world. The beginnings of depression in any individual can be difficult to pinpoint. However, there may be a short term fix that avoids the need for antidepressants. In 2016 the NHS issued 64.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants – double the number issued just ten years ago.
Current antidepressants involve controlling the mood-altering chemicals affecting the brain. Serotonin is just one of a number of such elements. However, scientists are hopeful that they have found a general cause of depression that may be the origin of those feelings of unhappiness and fatigue which are symptoms of depression.
Research has shown that depression could itself be a symptom of an overactive immune system refusing to stop working after an illness. A number of scientific and medical papers filed seem to point to findings that inflammation causes depression.
It is common for patients to become depressed or exhibit symptoms of depression upon taking a course of drugs to boost the immune system.
Professor Ed Bullmore, from the University of Cambridge, believes that inflammation causes depression.
“It’s pretty clear that inflammation can cause depression,” he told a briefing in London to coincide with this week’s Academy of Medical Sciences FORUM annual lecture which has brought together government the NHS and academics to discuss the issue.
“In relation to mood, beyond reasonable doubt, there is a very robust association between inflammation and depressive symptoms. We give people a vaccination and they will become depressed. Vaccine clinics could always predict it, but they could never explain it.
“The question is does the inflammation drive the depression or vice versa or is it just a coincidence?
“In experimental medicine studies if you treat a healthy individual with an inflammatory drug, like interferon, a substantial percentage of those people will become depressed. So we think there is good enough evidence for a causal effect.”
Trials are to begin next year to determine whether anti-inflammatory drugs could put an end to depression for millions of people around the world.