Those who have found themselves resistant to traditional pharmaceutical approaches to treating depression can often get desperate enough to try just about anything. For what it’s worth, the author of this article could be the poster boy for Treatment Resistant Depression. Name a popular antidepressant and I have tried it. The only one that even came close to working for an extended period of time was Serzone. In my search for alternative methods to treat depression, my path eventually crossed that of 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytrytophan).
5-HTP is essentially the non-prescription delivery system for serotonin that came into popular usage around the middle of the 1990’s when over the counter sales of tryptophan came to an end due to a contamination scare from Japan. Prior to that medical emergency resulting in the termination of easily accessible tryptophan, that particular amino acid had been a popular choice both for those with difficulty sleeping and those suffering from depression.
Today’s over the counter alternative, 5-HTP, is manufactured from seeds mainly extracted from shrubs in Africa. Contemporary use of 5-HTP is suggested not only for those suffering from sleep problems and depression, but some anxiety disorders and even as a weight loss supplement.
So does 5-HTP work?
You can get the skinny on official and unofficial studies all over the internet, but if you are particularly suffering from depression that defies treatment with normal drugs, here is the bona fide truth from a fellow passenger on the Starship Disappointment navigating the emptiness of space that is a chemical imbalance in the areas of the brain devoted to establishing and maintaining mood.
5-HTP seemed to stimulate a slight mellowing of my mood in the first few days of use. I am not suffering from obesity, but I could stand to lose a little weight. Unfortunately, 5-HTP did nothing to curb my appetite; you’d be much better off getting a prescription for Ritalin or Adderall if you suffer from depression and are overweight. Neither did 5-HTP seem to help with sleep. But the real focus here is how 5-HTP affected my depression. Following those first few promising days of lighting a candle in the darkness, the news became both good and bad. Well, maybe not bad so much as unproven.
The good news is that if you have suffered really bad effects from any prescription antidepressant, you are likely to have an easier time with 5-HTP. Personally, the side effects I have dealt with from various antidepressants range from growling like an animal to nausea, headaches and insomnia. 5-HTP delivered nothing in the way of adverse effects that would have lead me to stop using it until the bottle was emptied. I cannot say the same about a medication like Buspar.
And that’s where the bad news comes in. I continued using 5-HTP every day until the bottle was empty. After a few days of feeling not so much better as not quite as bad—which, if you suffer Treatment Resistant Depression, can be practically one and the same—I was right back where I started.
I have read from other users that 5-HTP tends to have a much shorter period in which tolerance builds so that could explain the sudden lapse of any notable effectiveness. I did try increasing the dosage for a few days, but still nothing. There is some potential bad news associated with this experiment, however. The higher the dosage, the greater the potential for fatigue setting in. When I went back to the loser dosage, that side effect disappeared.
I wish I could recommend 5-HTP to my Treatment Resistant Depression brothers and sisters, but the best I can do is suggest you try it. I make this suggestion due to the lack of harsh side effects only. As far as taking it with any hope that 5-HTP is the Holy Grail, well, it probably isn’t. At least it wasn’t in my case. One recommendation I would make is that you might want to give 5-HTP more time to work in your case. I quit after a month; perhaps this method of treating depression requires more time, effort and patience. Keep in mind that a non-prescription bottle of 5-HTP is likely to cost significantly less than your antidepressant medication.