There are many myths and little information about taking antidepressants. There’s also no shortage of horror stories on the Internet from patients who’ve experienced a slew of serious health concerns. Then, there are the sensationalist headlines and consumer books that declare antidepressants as effective as dummy pills, at best, or life-threatening treatments, at worst. Information exists on both ends of the spectrum: from the dangers of antidepressants to their sole and superior use as a depression treatment.
So, in short, starting, staying on and safely quitting antidepressants are topics that aren’t easy to make sense of. Fortunately, Taking Antidepressants gives readers a balanced, up-to-date and jargon-free look at the pros and cons of taking this class of medication. Written by Michael D. Banov, M.D., a triple board-certified medical director at Northwest Behavioral Medicine and Research Center in Atlanta, this book dispels common myths, discusses the latest research and provides the tools for readers to become smart consumers and active participants in their treatment.
Aptly, the book is divided into three parts: Starting Antidepressants, Staying on Antidepressants and Stopping Antidepressants. In each chapter, Dr. Banov answers common questions and concerns about depression and its treatment. Toward the end, there’s a short section on antidepressants in children and teens, a glossary and list of Internet resources. You’ll also find an appendix section with valuable tools, including short questionnaires to help you assess your mood and health, a list of commonly prescribed medications and their side effect risk and a self-test to see if you can successfully taper off a medication.
In section one on starting antidepressants, Dr. Banov introduces readers to four individuals who are suffering from some type of depression. Their stories appear throughout the book, and serve as a great illustration of diagnosing, treating and living with depression. He also discusses what to do when considering an antidepressant, such as making sure that you’re seeing a professional who specializes in depression and can offer suggestions for non-medication treatments. He includes various questions that your doctor may ask so you can prepare for your appointment, and helps you determine your own attitude about antidepressants.
Next, he demystifies depression by outlining the various types. He discusses how depression affects the brain and body, the types of antidepressants and how doctors choose medications for patients. These are complex concepts that can confuse many readers. However, Dr. Banov provides straightforward and easy-to-read explanations, whether he’s discussing brain receptors or drug research.
In the second section, staying on antidepressants, you’ll learn how to tell if your medication is working, what to do to boost its effectiveness, the safety of antidepressants, overcoming side effects and what to do when your medication stops working. Dr. Banov provides a frank discussion of everything from how clinical research works to which medications have the greatest risk for dangerous side effects to whether antidepressants are addictive. Again, you’ll find this refreshing frankness throughout the book.
The third section addresses a much-neglected topic: stopping antidepressants. Dr. Banov talks about the right and wrong reasons to stop taking antidepressants along with the factors that may create successful or unsuccessful discontinuation. He lays out the safe ways people can stop or switch antidepressants with the help of their doctor.
The final chapter focuses on life post-medication, including what you can do to prevent another episode of depression.
Taking Antidepressants features a wealth of science-based and expert information. Dr. Banov talks candidly about the limits of depression treatment and the research to date. For instance, in Chapter 4, he reveals how pharmaceutical companies can manipulate studies to give their drug the upper hand.
Dr. Banov provides the facts without taking either sides of the medication debate. He emphasizes the importance of choosing treatments based on a person’s specific needs. He empowers readers to educate themselves, ask their doctors questions and to seek second and third opinions. In Chapter 1, for example, he writes, “If your provider takes offense at this [getting a second opinion], then you may be dealing with someone whose ego is too inflated to serve you well.”
Books on medication tend to be dry and read like jargon-filled textbooks; however, Dr. Banov has created an engaging and well-written text that simplifies dense subjects.
Overall, Taking Antidepressants is a must-read for patients, loved ones, caregivers and even mental health professionals. Amid the misinformation, confusion, mystery and stigma that surround psychiatric medications, this book provides a clear-cut, compassionate, well-researched and insightful look into treating depression and making informed choices about your treatment.
Taking Antidepressants: Your Comprehensive Guide to Starting, Staying On, and Safely Quitting
By Michael D. Banov, MD
Sunrise River Press: July 2010
Paperback, 304 pages