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Serotonin (5HT) is a neurotransmitter which is involved in many behaviors; as examples:
The serotoninergic system is known to modulate mood, emotion, sleep and appetite and thus is implicated in the control of numerous behavioural and physiological functions. Decreased serotoninergic neurotransmission has been proposed to play a key role in the aetiology of depression. The concentration of synaptic serotonin is controlled directly by its reuptake into the pre-synaptic terminal and, thus, drugs blocking serotonin transport have been successfully used for the treatment of depression. In addition to tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs; e.g. imipramine) which also block noradrenaline reuptake, highly specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine and paroxetine have been developed, which are increasingly prescribed for depressed patients. The mode of action of these antidepressant drugs on their direct target, the serotonin transport protein, and possible regulatory mechanisms with respect to long-term alleviation of depression, although having been investigated both neurobiologically and clinically over the last years, are not yet understood. The cloning of the cDNA encoding the serotonin transporter has allowed a more precise characterization of this protein at the molecular level. This will show how antidepressants act at this target, thereby affecting the biochemical, pharmacological and electrophysiological properties of the serotoninergic system and give an introduction of how they might exert their therapeutic effect. This review gives an overview of the recent developments in this field, discusses mechanisms of antidepressant action on this target, and also possible interactions with other components of serotoninergic neurotransmission.
SEROTONIN - THE KEY TO THE PSYCHADELIC EXPERIENCE:
The brain chemical these drugs increase, serotonin, is the same brain chemical that LSD, PCP and other psychedelic drugs mimic in order to produce their hallucinogenic effects ". . . psychedelic agents mimic the effects of serotonin." And remember that psychedelic agents are "a class of compounds with no demonstrated therapeutic use, a history of extensive abuse, and the ability to provoke psychosis. Yet many brain researchers value the psychedelic agents above any of the other psychoactive drugs" because "the research into psychedelic drugs has already enriched our understanding of how the brain regulates behavior." (Dr. Solomon Snyder, DRUGS AND THE BRAIN) Just how much will these brain researchers learn from our experience with these drugs designed to specifically increase serotonin, the same brain chemical the psychedelic agents mimic to produce their effects?
We know that these drugs interfere with serotonin metabolism (demonstrated by levels of the serotonin metabolite 5HIAA). It is not serotonin that is low in these disorders, it is this by product 5HIAA, which indicates the level of serotonin metabolism, that is low in depression, suicide, etc. Yet as serotonin (5HT) goes up serotonin metabolism (5HIAA) generally comes down. We already have studies demonstrating at what percentage each of these drugs increase 5HT and decrease 5HIAA. Now learn the results first of elevated levels of serotonin (5HT) and secondly the results of decreased levels of serotonin metabolism (5HIAA):
Elevated 5HT (serotonin) levels:
#1 schizophrenia, psychosis, mania, etc.
#2 mood disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.)
#3 organic brain disease - especially mental retardation at a greater incident rate in children
#4 autism (a self-centered or self-focused mental state with no basis in reality)
#5 Alzheimer's disease
#6 old age
#8 constriction of the blood vessels
#9 blood clotting
#10 constriction of bronchials and other physical effects
Lower 5HIAA (serotonin metabolism) levels:
#1 suicide (especially violent suicide)
#3 violent crime
#6 alcohol abuse
#7 impulsive acts with no concern for punishment
#8 reckless driving
#9 dependence upon various substances
#11 multiple suicide attempts
#12 hostility and more contact with police
#14 arguments with spouses, friends and relatives
#15 obsessive compulsive behavior
#16 impaired employment due to hostility, etc.
All are exactly what patients and their families have continued to report to be their experience on these drugs since Prozac was introduced! These individuals are frantically searching for answers while this research sits right under our noses. Although this is a totally different picture than pharmaceutical marketing departments would have us believe, marketing claims and reality rarely have much in common.
Researchers tell us that five, ten or twenty years later it is not uncommon to find we have another thalidomide on our hands. Raising 5HT (serotonin) and lowering 5HIAA (serotonin metabolism) in such a high number of people can produce very serious, extensive and long term problems for all of society. Even more frightening for the future of our society is the rapidly rising widespread accepted practice of prescribing these drugs to small children and adolescents. This crucial medical research must be addressed openly, without delay, rather than remain buried in seldom read medical research documents as has been the case in the past with other mind-altering medications, once thought to be safe, which were subsequently prohibited by law.
Some information included in the book (424 pgs):
...serious long-term adverse physical and psychiatric side effects produced by elevated levels of serotonin ...reported after effects: withdrawal, memory loss, sleep disorders, panic and anxiety attacks (adrenalin rushes), impaired concentration, bi-polar, diabetes, MS symptoms, mania, chronic fatigue, severe rebound depression, symptoms of Cushings Syndrome - moon face, looking or feeling pregnant, inability to handle stress, mood swings, etc.
...learn the cause of depression, manic-depression, panic, anxiety, OCD, psychosis, schizophrenia, etc.- understand mental illness as never before. ...why False Memory Syndrome is so often being induced by these drugs and breaking up relationships ...reports of compulsions for alcohol, sweets, NutraSweet sweetened drinks, spending and sex
(5) For those who suffer from very low levels of subjective well-being (e.g. major depression), the most potent anti-depressants are pharmaceutical, not social or economic. Six months on Prozac™, Wellbutrin™, Serzone™, or Effexor™ will usually put a depressed person back near a normal happiness set-point (apparently by increasing serotonin's effects in the left prefrontal cortex). The effects of such drugs are much stronger than any increase in wealth or status, or any other attempt to change the external conditions of life.
If you want to transcend out of the realm of physical and mental suffering, increase the quality of your life, further define your life goal and your spiritual path, and reach for profound happiness, it is imperative to respect your body, mind and spirit as equally important parts of your existence. All parts directly affect your well-being.
In this chapter we will discuss your body' need for sufficient "deep sleep" and "REM sleep" to assist you optimally in your quest for health and happiness.
As a child, I found sleeping a waste of time. It baffled me that it was necessary to lie down and do nothing for an entire night. What was wrong with us? After experimenting with many different life styles, I found out that whether I liked it or not, I need about seven to eight hours of sleep to remain physically and mentally healthy. But what is sleep? What happens when you snooze?
During your sleep you will go through several stages. By means of an electroencephalograph (EEG) these stages can be recognized. Every stage has its own specific brain wave characteristics. The rhythm of the brain waves are measured in cycles per second (CPS). When you are awake and alert, the CPS of your brain waves are 14 and up. We call these waves Beta waves.
When you relax deeply, your brain waves have about 7 to 14 CPS. These waves are called Alpha waves. This stage occurs naturally when you are about to fall asleep and when you wake up but are not quite there yet. When you learn how to fully relax and meditate you will enter the Alpha state as well. To go into Alpha is very rejuvenating for mind and body. The mind loses its rigidity. Knowledge and experiences are more easily integrated. Thinking becomes more creative. And insights spontaneously occur. I highly recommend to go into your Alpha state regularly. You can do this by deep relaxation and/or meditation. It is the state of mind in which you are able to get in touch more easily with the real YOU - your strengths and life goals. Go into Alpha when you need to problem solve or when you want to make important decisions, relax, energize, center and focus. The audio tapes will help you with this. Click here for details about the available audiotapes.
When you fall into a light sleep, your muscles relax but your brain waves are still irregular. The CPS of your brain waves are between 4 and 7 (Theta state). After a while the brain waves become larger and slowly you slide into a deep sleep, in which your brain activity is characterized with large, slow waves. Your breathing is calm and your heartbeat is slow. You are resting. Physically your body is taking a much needed breather. Your CPS is 4 and below (Delta state). The tension that is present in every muscle in your body during day-time hours is reduced to a minimum. You are in a deep sleep. Deep sleep plays a crucial role in physical health. Your body regenerates. But after an hour or so, your eyes start to move rapidly, you are dreaming. This stage is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. During this stage your brain waves are almost the same as when you were awake. Luckily your body remains asleep. Scientists still debate why we dream. But it makes sense that your mind needs to process, resolve, or let go of thoughts, impressions, and feelings (charges). During our sleep we go into REM stage several times. Research indicates the importance of REM sleep. The more REM sleep you get, the more likely you will get up feeling refreshed, positive, and energetic. When you sleep 7 to 8 hours you will probably experience 4 to 5 REM sleep episodes. However, the first REM period doesn’t last very long. The fourth or fifth period may last up to an hour. That’s why it is important to sleep for at least seven hours. However, not everyone is the same and sleep patterns may differ slightly from person to person.
So, why is it that many people don’t get rejuvenating sleep, from which they wake up refreshed, in a good mood, and full of energy? A survey from the National Sleep Foundation Gallup (1995) shows that 49% of Americans have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. Stress seems to be the major factor: unresolved stressors from the past, present stressors, or projected stressors of the future. We tend to take our daily worries, fears, deep secrets, and emotional pains with us to bed. And they sure keep us awake: money problems, a conflict at work, being embarrassed in front of your friends, the feeling that your life is going nowhere , traumatic experiences from the past, low self esteem, depression, etc.
For a restful sleep it is important that your serotonin level (neurotransmitter) is as high as possible. Serotonin increases a feeling of well-being, which helps to slow down and to initiate a calm peaceful sleep. Directly related to the production of serotonin is the production of melatonin, a hormone which is known for its sleep-inducing effect. Serotonin and melatonin use the same building blocks: tryptophan. Basically everything that we have discussed, and will be discussing relating to feeling good, is applicable to helping you improve your sleep cycle as well.
What can you do to fall asleep quickly and improve the quality of your sleep?
Which of the following statements are facts and which are conclusions (theories)?
The first two items are facts. Items 3 and 4 are conclusions (theories) but the medical community speaks as if these conclusions can be taken for granted as fact. This is a big mistake and the mistake is so pervasive in the language of medicine and biological science that such assumptions are the basis for almost all research and medication approaches and all theories of the workings of the brain take these conclusions for granted and must build on these conclusions (theories) that a chemical (such as serotonin) can be a regulator of some greater function (such as mood) of the organism and that irregularities in the levels of such chemicals need to be adjusted through the use of medication as the way to a cure.
Our entire society speaks about the advances in the understanding of "brain chemistry" and it is this term as it is understood that is really getting in the way of understanding how the brain really computes.
Yes, the brain has evolved a large number of chemical markers for different regions of the nervous system and these markers can be manipulated by medication or by the body itself in a variety of ways to effect nervous system communication and behavior of systems, but the language of the brain is in the mathematics behind inhibition and excitation as the individual cells influence each other (and in the geography of the wiring).
I’ll now list a variety of facts and arguments that go against the conclusions that serotonin is a regulator of mood and that levels of serotonin are too low in depressed patients and need to be replaced. (This essay is only picking serotonin as an example and such arguments can be applied to a wide variety of different chemicals found in the brain and their associated "functions" as described by the biological community.)
Those who study medicine must first learn biological chemistry. They learn to speak the language of chemistry. They are speaking facts when they show how one carbon-based molecule reacts with another carbon-based molecule (along with another catalyst or two, perhaps) and say that this reaction causes some other carbon-based molecule to be created. This is the language of chemistry and, yes, the body is a construct of a vast array of many different chemicals reacting with each other. But when they make the leap of saying that some particular chemical regulates some particular function of the organism as a whole, and make this statement without being able to explain all the mechanisms by which this is possible, they are speaking theory that is unproved. To constantly state such theory as if it is fact is unscientific and getting in the way of major discoveries of how the system might really work.
It is easy to understand why this inaccurate shorthand is used and why these assumptions are made. Medicine is doing the best it can at the moment. If you are going to prescribe these medications you need to feel that what you are doing is beneficial and this language makes it possible for the doctor to assume the confidence in the approach needed by the patient. (The placebo effect of believing in the doctor is very important. I’ll eventually explain the mechanisms that make placebo effect work in the brain.)
The doctor needs to be able to say that you have a deficit and that he/she will fix the problem by addressing this deficit. The doctor is trained to appear confident and knowing. It is not good style to admit that they don’t really know why some people get better when taking these medications.
But this language is wrought with inaccuracy. The answers will only come from a language that consistently applies to data in all disciplines. The truth can't be found with the current language.
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