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Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression

With Orthomolecular Therapy

Rodger H. Murphree, D.C.

In any given one-year period, 9.5% of the population, or about 18.8 million American adults,

suffer from depression.1 The indirect and direct costs of mood disorder illnesses in he U.S. totals

over $43 billion a year. Depression and related mood disorders rank just behind high-blood

pressure as the most common reason people visit their doctors.

One in three doctor's visits by women, now involve a prescription for an antidepressant

medication. And one in 10, American women takes at least one antidepressant drug.2 Americans

now spend more money on antidepressants than the Gross National Product of two-thirds of the

world’s countries.3

Most individuals who consult their medical doctor for mood disorders are placed on prescription

medications, and, in fact, as many as 10% of the U.S. population has taken one of these

medications. Prescription antidepressants reached a total of $37 billion in sales in 2003, which

came out to $9 million more than was spent on treatments for the heart, arteries, and blood


The largest growth spurt in antidepressant use has been among preschoolers, ages two to four.5

In 2003, over one million American children were taking an antidepressant medication.6

Interestingly, several studies show that between 19-70% of those taking antidepressant

medications do just as well by taking a placebo or sugar pill.7 While patients are attempting to

correct their mood disorders with prescription drugs that may or may not be more effective than a

sugar pill, all of these drugs have potential - sometimes serious - side effects. Prozac alone has
been associated with over 1,734 suicide deaths and over 28,000 adverse reactions.8

Prescription antidepressants can cause depression, anxiety, addiction, suicidal tendencies, tremors

or involuntary muscle spasms, and senility. Yes, prescription antidepressants and antianxiety

drugs can and do cause depression and anxiety.9

The most popular antidepressant drugs are known as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors

(SSRIs). SSRIs, including the drugs Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, and Zoloft are supposed to

prevent the brain from re-up taking the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, serotonin. Effexor

and Cymbalta are designed to inhibit the re-uptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and

norepinephrine. Using these drugs is analogous to using a gasoline additive to help your car get

more mileage out of the gasoline in the tank.

Unfortunately, many of the individuals who suffer from mood disorders are extremely low in

serotonin- blocking the re-uptake of what little serotonin there is, allowing it to stay active longer,

does little to boost overall serotonin levels. Using a gasoline additive poured into an empty

gasoline tank doesn’t help much, if at all. This may explain why patients often switch from one

antidepressant drug to another in hopes of feeling better.

Those suffering from anxiety are commonly prescribed one of the benzodiazepine (tranquilizer)

medications including Ativan, Xanax, or Klonopin. National surveys show that 5.6 million adults

over the age of 65 are now taking tranquilizers.10 These medications are associated with numerous

unwanted side effects including poor sleep, seizures, mania, depression, suicide, ringing in the

ears, amnesia, dizziness, anxiety, disorientation, low blood pressure, nausea, fluid retention,

tremors, sexual dysfunction (decreased desire and performance), weakness, somnolence

(prolonged drowsiness or a trance-like condition that may continue for a number of days), and

headaches.11 Additionally, over 73,000 older adults experience drug-induced tardive dyskinesia

(tremors or uncontrollable shakes). For many, these tremors are permanent. 12

Orthomolecular Medicine

Fortunately, for those looking for a safer, oftentimes more effective way to beat mood disorders, a

group of progressive-minded physicians helped pioneer a new way of treating mental disorders,

known as orthomolecular medicine. In 1968, two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, Ph.D.,

originated the term "orthomolecular" to describe an approach to medicine that uses naturally

occurring substances normally present in the body. "Ortho" means correct or normal, and

orthomolecular physicians recognize that in many cases of physiological and psychological

disorders, health can be reestablished by properly correcting - or normalizing - the balance of

vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other similar substances within the body. Unlike drug

therapy, which attempts to cover up the symptoms associated with a mood disorder,

orthomolecular medicine seeks to find and correct the cause of the illness.

Amino Acid Therapy

Medical science has now determined that how we feel is largely controlled by the foods we eat

and how well these building blocks are converted into brain-transmitting chemicals called

neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that control our moods. You may

remember that chains of essential and nonessential amino acids make up proteins. Many of these

amino acids are converted into neurotransmitters. The brain needs adequate amounts of protein

and their amino acids for the production of neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are produced from the amino acids in the foods we eat. Certain amino acids,

along with B vitamins and minerals, produce the neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters that

cause excitatory reactions are known as catecholamines. Catecholamines, epinephrine, and

norepinephrine (adrenaline) are derived from the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine.

The inhibitory or relaxing neurotransmitter serotonin is produced from the amino acid tryptophan.

Supplementing with 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a form of tryptophan, helps raise serotonin

levels. 5-HTP is available over the counter and works extremely well for most patients.

Studies show that 5-HTP can be as effective as antidepressant drug therapy including SSRI


S-adenosyl- L-methionine (SAMe) is a potent, fast-acting natural antidepressant that is

synthesized in the body from the amino acid methionine. SAMe has been proven through 100-

plus studies to be an effective over-the-counter supplement for reversing depression. 15-17 Meta-

analysis studies showed that 92% of those on SAMe improved compared to 85% on Elavil or

other tricyclic antidepressant drugs.18

Amino acid replacement therapy offers far less risk and far more long-term benefits than

prescription antidepressant drugs alone.

Perhaps its time we start correcting nutritional insufficiencies instead treating Prozac deficiencies.

About Dr. Murphree

Dr. Murphree is a board-certified nutritional specialist and chiropractic physician who has been in

private practice since 1990. He is the founder and past clinic director for a large integrated

medical practice located on the campus of Brookwood Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. The

clinic was staffed with medical doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, and massage

therapists. The clinic combined prescription and natural medicines for acute and chronic illnesses.

He is the author of five books including Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue

Syndrome, Heart Disease: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You, and Treating and Beating Anxiety

and Depression with Orthomolecular Medicine.

In 2003, Dr. Murphree sold his integrative medical practice. He now maintains a busy solo

private practice and conducts one- and two-day medical continuing education seminars. He can

be reached at his clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, at 205-879-2383. His website is

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3. ibid

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11. Wolfe S., Sasich L., Hope R. Worst Pills, Best Pills. New York, NY: Pocket Books; 1999. pg 11.

12. Ibid

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2000 Feb; 5(1):64-71.