The myth of reserpine-induced depression: role in the historical development of the monoamine hypothesis

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For five decades it has been generally accepted that reserpine, an antihypertensive and antipsychotic drug, causes depression. The discovery that reserpine depletes brain monoamines was an important factor in the development of the monoamine hypothesis of depression, and it continues to be widely cited in support of this hypothesis. The present paper argues that, contrary to prevailing belief, reserpine is not depressogenic. The reason for perpetuation of this myth is reluctance to discard the monoamine hypothesis. This hypothesis ushered the modern biochemical paradigm into psychiatry and is still of great importance. It serves as a heuristic to guide research, it enhances psychiatry's prestige, and it helps to validate and promote drug therapy for depression and other mental disorders.

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Journal of the history of the neurosciences

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