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Since their introduction to the global public in the 1950s, antidepressants have been prescribed to countless patients in their attempt to find relief from depression. Today there are five different oral families of antidepressants. Two of these families involve reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, SNRIs), meaning the drug is allowed to stay in the synapse of the nerve rather than being reabsorbed. Reuptake inhibitors are the most widely prescribed drugs for treating depression. When combined with the other three families of antidepressants (SARI, Tetracyclics, MAOIs) these five families of antidepressant medications total more than 30 different brands of oral antidepressants. Prozac, Effexor and Zoloft are a few of the more familiar product names.

However, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that approximately half of the patients who were prescribed oral antidepressants were unresponsive. Couple this with the statistic that 1 in 10 Americans is prescribed an oral antidepressant and that fact is staggering. Many people who live with depression do not respond to today’s psychotropic solutions.

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In an attempt to meet a recruitment goal of 80,000 new soldiers, people with a history of cutting, bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the United States Army. The policy, enacted in August, went unannounced to the public. It joins other Army policy changes like hairstyles, beards, and headdress.

To meet last year's goal of 69,000 new recruits, the Army accepted more who scored poorly on aptitude tests, increased waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in enlistment bonuses.

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[DIGEST: Science Alert, Brain, Motherboard, Warwick News]

As we slide closer to the end of the year, the holidays, the shorter daylight hours, post-election stress and social media all contribute to an increase in symptoms of depression for many people. Lack of energy, sadness, problems with concentration, loss of appetite and libido, and sleep problems are among the many symptoms people with depression may face. Despite the fact that an estimated 16 million Americans suffered from depression in 2015, and one in 10 people will suffer from depression in their lifetime, treatments remain imprecise and, for too many people, ineffective. An additional barrier is the continuing lack of understanding and stigma that deters many from seeking help. Too many people still believe that depression is “all in the head.”

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[DIGEST: Scientific American, Lancet Psychiatry, Huffington Post]

The first clinical trial to use psilocybin, the active compound in “magic mushrooms,” to treat major depression shows promise in a small but breakthrough study. Researchers from Imperial College London gave psilocybin to 12 people suffering from severe depression. One week after receiving an oral dose of the compound, each participant exhibited significant improvement in symptoms. The study further demonstrated psilocybin’s safety in a supervised setting.

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[DIGEST: NPR, MedicalNewsToday, Scientific American]

Depression afflicts most people at some point in their lives, but for some, the condition is chronic and debilitating. Major depressive disorder affects 14.8 million people in the United States, making it the most common disability for people aged 15-44. Many pharmaceuticals are available to treat depression, but few have lasting positive results for those whose depression is life-threatening.  

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