were created in Sweden 40 years ago by Arvid Carlsson. Carlsson had noticed that other drugs that acted on the serotonin system produced a mental change in people. He created Zimelidine, a drug that acted purely on serotonin, to try and find out what this change was.
It is now clear what the change is. SSRIs produce a Who Cares feeling - they emotionally blunt anyone who takes them. This can be helpful or unhelpful. When given in the short term to people who are depressed or anxious SSRIs are marginally better than placebo in just the way that alcohol might be marginally better than placebo.
When taken in the longer run, just like alcohol, SSRIs cause an addiction and dependence, particularly for women, that can be more severe than dependence on other drugs of abuse like cocaine, heroin, or amphetamines.
Given to women of child-bearing years who because of addiction cannot stop them, they cause birth defects and learning disabilities in the children exposed to them in the womb.
SSRIs suit roughly half of the people put on them. For the other half that they do not suit, they can cause suicidal and homicidal reactions. In clinical trials more people die on these drugs than are saved by them. There are also more people who become violent on treatment than have their risk of violence reduced. These drugs are almost certainly involved in some recent school shootings.
Beyond the effects of these drugs on the people who take them, the SSRIs have had an effect on society. Their marketing has been extraordinarily successful in persuading all of us that difficulties in life stem from a serotonin deficiency disorder that a simple pill can put right.
Before the SSRIs, drugs were poisons that came with risks. Now they are fertilizers to be used as widely as possible, being given in ever larger amounts to children and the elderly - the only risks the authorities can see it would seem stem from not using enough of them.
Before the SSRIs, the scientific literature was written by academics with access to clinical trial data. It has now been emptied out andt is full of ghost written articles. These claim the drugs work wonderfully well when in fact the clinical trials may show they don't work or are too dangerous.
As a result if any of us are put on one of these drugs and end up with a problem, we are likely to be faced with doctors who deny that these problems are happening - doctors who have almost got to the stage of not being able to see us in front of their own eyes.
... is a documentary trilogy, an attempt by two Swedes to hold a mirror
up to their countrymen and get them to recognise what has happened.
See the documentary on-line here for free: