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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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[DIGEST: The Conversation, Harvard, IFL Science]

Nancy Reagan may have advised Americans to “Just say NO” to drugs, but her campaign did little to quell the public’s fixation. Banning them, defending them, studying them: we are a drug-obsessed species. It’s not hard to see why. Drugs like cocaine and heroin directly interact with our brains, stimulating the reward center and creating a sense of euphoria. However, psychedelic drugs, also known as hallucinogens, such as LSD and mushrooms, do not impact this same pleasure center, and in fact simply poison the body, which results in vivid hallucinations and altered states of mind. From an evolutionary standpoint, this is puzzling. Why would humans, as a species, embrace something that poses such risk? To understand what role hallucinogens have played in our evolution, scientists have been investigating our cultural history, rather than our physical growth as a species.

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[DIGEST: The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, CNN, Vice, Scientific American]

Nicotine is one of the hardest addictions to break. Despite wide exposure to health information that tells us that smoking can cause a host of killer health problems, more than 17 percent of Americans over age 18 — 40 million people — continue to smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death. While many smokers say they want to quit, nicotine’s intensely powerful grip on its users means only 35 percent of people who try to quit smoking are successful.

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