Throughout time, people have commonly used music as a healing device. African slaves would sing songs while working in the southern heat. When a soldier dies, the U.S. Military plays “Taps” at the soldier’s funeral. After World War 2, soldiers recovering from injuries or trauma found relief from their pain thanks to musicians who would come and perform in hospitals.
Of course, music is not the only known healing device in the world, nor is it the most commonly used. As science progresses, advancements in the medical field keep introducing themselves. Among them are new surgical techniques, new tools to use while in surgery, and new medicines. Another common medical practice that has nowadays been de-stigmatized is therapy. This includes physical therapy, but emphasizes practices designed for the mind and emotion, such as Psychotherapy and Emotional Counseling. The acceptance of newfound therapeutic routes comes hand-in-hand with more attention being paid to a patient’s mental health, and not just their physical health. As a result, medicine has been designed specifically to treat patients with mental health related disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
According to Siddhartha Mukherjee of The New York Times, the FDA approved of the drug Prozac in 1988. It was created as an “anti-depressant,” which is pretty self explanatory. After it’s first year on the market, Prozac had filled 2,469,000 prescriptions. People were ecstatic about the results of Prozac. According to John Markowitz, a Professor of Pharmacy at the University of Florida, it was a hit because it was the safest anti-depressant on the market. Previous antidepressants were hard to correctly dose, and dangerous if you happened to go over your dosage. Prozac is a much more controlled substance, however. Because of this, Prozac was seen as a safer route out of depression.
Prozac’s popularity continued to grow. Tony Soprano started using it on TV, and regular Americans considered it effective, and even life-changing for some. In the 1994 novel Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel talks about her positive experiences on the drug. Before trying prozac, Wurtzel was, by her own despcription, living in “a computer program of total negativity . . . an absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest.” After starting Prozac, however, she recalls miraculously waking up one morning and not feeling depressed anymore. Wurtzel states
“One morning I woke up and really did want to live. . . . It was as if the miasma of depression had lifted off me, in the same way that the fog in San Francisco rises as the day wears on. Was it the Prozac? No doubt.”
By 2002, the number of Prozac prescriptions in the United States had risen to over 33 million. And by 2008, anti-depressants had become the 3rd most prescribed type of drug in America. This could be because of a lot of outside factors. In reality, the 2000’s were loaded with a lot of stress-inducing events. The attacks at 9/11 left a nation in shock and dismay, while also heightening our attention on the Middle East. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would not let up. And to make things worse, the collapse of the Housing Market in 2008 introduced the Recession. It is no wonder that Americans were being prescribed more anti-depressants.
After anti-depressant prescriptions had really hit their peak, people began to seriously question the drug’s abilities. With more people using anti-depressants than ever, it was always more likely for new complaints and side-effects to be reported. By the 2010’s, anti-depressant usage was being discouraged by some doctors. Psychologist Irving Kirsch referred to anti-depressants as nothing more than sugar-pill placebos, not equipped to deal with the more complex psychological issues of individuals that may require much more than a pill to get a grip on what the problem really is.
Some doctors began to start re-thinking the logic behind how anti-depressant’s work as a whole. Depression has always been thought to be caused by a lack of serotonin in the brain. As serotonin levels diminished, depression kicked in. Thus, drugs were created around the goal of producing more serotonin for the brain.
When doctor’s actually began looking at the serotonin levels in depressed patients, they saw that serotonin levels really were not that low. But the people were still depressed. Thus, the theory that depression relied strictly on serotonin levels was debunked.
Even more research showed that serotonin WAS in fact a big part of determining mood, but it was only an ingredient in the recipe. But, the drugs did improve our understanding of depression. So, although Prozac might not be the answer that the 1980’s thought it was, anti-depressants can still be used effectively.
So, what are the other ingredients of this anti-depression recipe? If the drugs are not enough, what should be done? Like stated earlier, modern medicine has opened up different means of therapy to the world. Group-style counseling groups consisting of people undergoing similar hardships have been introduced. One-to-one therapy with a Psychologist can also be effective.
And then there is the use of Music. Music can also be a tool in treating depression. How? According to EverydayHealth.com, listening to music can help the body produce dopamine, which is a chemical that has to do with controlling behavior. Also, the rhythm of the songs helps to provide a rhythm for breathing, which can help control heartbeat and other bodily functions.
A study done by the British Journal of Psychiatry showed even more evidence of musical therapy being effective. In the study of 79 patients with depression, 46 of them received standard care, which included anti-depressants, psychotherapy sessions, and psychiatric counseling. the remaining 33 received the same treatment, as well as 20 different hour-long musical therapy sessions. The group that participated in the musical therapy reportedly showed lower rates of depression than the group who hadn’t, as well as more improvements in day-to-day functions.
So, is music the answer? No. But neither are anti-depressants. Taking one or the other will not rid anybody of their depression. Does anybody really know what will? No. But, one thing is for sure: These are definitely two ingredients in the complex recipe that we are continuously improving upon to fight depression. As time and science move forward, we can only continue to try all resources at our disposal, and continue to see what improvements can be made in the coming future.
Borchard, Therese. “How Music Therapy Can Relieve Depression.” EverydayHealth.com, Everyday Health, 4 May 2017, http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/music-therapy-to-relieve-depression/.
Hatton, Randy C. “25 Years after Prozac.” Home, Pharmacist.com, 1 May 2013, http://www.pharmacist.com/25-years-after-prozac.
Mukherjee, Siddhartha. “Post-Prozac Nation.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 Apr. 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/magazine/the-science-and-history-of-treating-depression.html.