A History Of Modern Antidepressants, From Opium To SSRIs

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Depression has been around in the human consciousness for a long time — it's just had some different names (and some very strange treatments). In ancient Greece, the theory of "humours" dictated that people with depression (or "melancholia") simply had too much of one particularly substance, black bile, in their bodies, and that it was as simple as correcting that imbalance through your diet. (Greek physician Hippocrates advised avoiding meats "hardened by salt and smoke".) It took a long time for melancholia to evolve from an imbalance into a mood disorder with a more official name (depression), and even longer for us to develop drugs as remedies, rather than, say, imposing "rest cures" (being confined to your room for six weeks in isolation while being grossly overfed).

If you take an antidepressant nowadays, chances are it's Prozac, Citalopram, or something of that ilk — but behind these easy, modern pills are nearly two centuries of exploration, experiment, and peculiarity. (Opium injection, anybody?) It's been a wild ride. Join me in the history of antidepressants — and clutch at your prescription with gratitude.

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