Short Takes: Anti-Depressants, Neurogenesis, and #Marchforourlives

Three good articles, three different topics.

First up, the New York Times profiles people who are on anti-depressants long term and find they have trouble quitting. It’s an interesting article both because it impact a lot of people (7% of US adults have been on anti-depressants for 5+ years) and because it’s an interesting insight in to the limitations of our clinical trial/drug approval system. Basically, drugs get approved based off of a timeframe that can reasonably be done in a clinical trial: 6 to 9 months or so. In this case later studies went out as far as 2 years, but no further. This has caused issues when trying to get long term users back off. Some studies have reported 50-70% of longterm users reporting serious withdrawal symptoms, with many continuing on the medications just to avoid the withdrawal. I don’t really see a clear way around this….trials can’t go on forever…..but it is an unfortunate limitation of our current system.

Next up, Slate Star Codex does a somewhat unsettling review about adult neurogenesis.  He goes through dozens of highly cited papers talking about how useful/involved neurogenesis is in so many many things in our lives, just to follow it up with the new study that shows it probably doesn’t exist. Uuuuuuugh. Apparently a lot of the confusion started because it definitely exists in rats, and things kinda snowballed from there. It sounds like just another scientific squabble, but in the words of SSC “We know many scientific studies are false. But we usually find this out one-at-a-time. This – again, assuming the new study is true, which it might not be – is a massacre. It offers an unusually good chance for reflection.” Yikes.

Finally, some interesting stats about the March For Our Lives that took place recently, and who actually participated. Contrary to what I’d heard, this march actually had a higher average age (49) than many we’ve seen, and fewer than 10% of participants were under 18. Most interesting (to me) is that the first time protesters there were more likely to say they were motivated to march because of Trump (42%) than gun rights (12%).