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(Van Gogh

Here is the difficulty in thinking about depression (in particular) and psychological difficulties in general.

In the first article, a study in Great Britain concludes that antidepressants are under- prescribed. The authors of the study argue that at least 1,000,000 more Britons should be prescribed antidepressants:

Prof Carmine Pariante, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “This meta-analysis finally puts to bed the controversy on antidepressants, clearly showing that these drugs do work in lifting mood and helping most people with depression. Importantly, the paper analyses unpublished data held by pharmaceutical companies, and shows that the funding of studies by these companies does not influence the result, thus confirming that the clinical usefulness of these drugs is not affected by pharma-sponsored spin.

In the second article, researchers determined that depression was the result of an amino acid deficiency:

Reduced levels of an amino acid found in blood samples have been linked to major depressive disorder, according to a new study in Finland.

Researchers with the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital studied 99 adults aged 20-71 with diagnosed major depressive disorder and 253 non-depressed control adults in a report published Wednesday in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

In the third article, Andrew Sullivan argues that the opioid crisis has been caused not merely by the physical effects of the ever-more-powerful opioids available, but perhaps more so by the social destruction of American culture:

One of the more vivid images that Americans have of drug abuse is of a rat in a cage, tapping a cocaine-infused water bottle again and again until the rodent expires. Years later, as recounted in Johann Hari’s epic history of the drug war, Chasing the Scream, a curious scientist replicated the experiment. But this time he added a control group. In one cage sat a rat and a water dispenser serving diluted morphine. In another cage, with another rat and an identical dispenser, he added something else: wheels to run in, colored balls to play with, lots of food to eat, and other rats for the junkie rodent to play or have sex with. Call it rat park. And the rats in rat park consumed just one-fifth of the morphine water of the rat in the cage. One reason for pathological addiction, it turns out, is the environment. If you were trapped in solitary confinement, with only morphine to pass the time, you’d die of your addiction pretty swiftly too. Take away the stimulus of community and all the oxytocin it naturally generates, and an artificial variety of the substance becomes much more compelling.

One way of thinking of postindustrial America is to imagine it as a former rat park, slowly converting into a rat cage. Market capitalism and revolutionary technology in the past couple of decades have transformed our economic and cultural reality, most intensely for those without college degrees. The dignity that many working-class men retained by providing for their families through physical labor has been greatly reduced by automation. Stable family life has collapsed, and the number of children without two parents in the home has risen among the white working and middle classes. The internet has ravaged local retail stores, flattening the uniqueness of many communities. Smartphones have eviscerated those moments of oxytocin-friendly actual human interaction. Meaning — once effortlessly provided by a more unified and often religious culture shared, at least nominally, by others — is harder to find, and the proportion of Americans who identify as “nones,” with no religious affiliation, has risen to record levels. Even as we near peak employment and record-high median household income, a sense of permanent economic insecurity and spiritual emptiness has become widespread. Some of that emptiness was once assuaged by a constantly rising standard of living, generation to generation.
But that has now evaporated for most Americans.

This final article by Sullivan is particularly quite well-written and is worth you time to ponder.

It would be possible to find numerous articles which take ever more positions on depression. This gets to a fundamental trouble with psychology. Human beings are subject to untold numbers of physiological and environmental effects. The delineation and interaction of these effects is almost endless. Moreover, scientific analysis assumes a deterministic relationship between the variables, which rules out any sort of personal decision.

Moreover, any such analysis ignores the entire spiritual aspect of being a human being — which unquestionably affects one’s expressed psychological state. I would contend that the spiritual state of the human being is the single most important aspect of human psychology: this does not mean that I deny the importance of the human body or the human environment; it means that neither body nor environment can be understood in isolation from the spiritual and that the spiritual must be given priority.