Pharmaceutical Technology | Do mental health drugs work?

Pharmaceutical Technology have spoken to Smart TMS Medical Director, Dr Leigh Neal, about how anti-depressants and other psychiatric drugs compare to alternative mental health treatments, such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (or TMS).

Journalist, Allie Nawrat, reported:

“In November, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated that mental health diagnosis and prescription drugs cost the UK economy £94bn annually.”

Pharmaceutical Technology - TMS for mental health

She then went onto explore the exclusive Smart TMS research project, “Prescription Dread”. This project demonstrates the wariness experienced by the UK public when it comes to antidepressants and other drugs and the resulting need for alternatives. A higher than expected 14% of people stated that they avoid visiting their GP about their depression because they want to avoid drugs. But what if they didn’t have to?

Dr Neal has seen an increase in the wary attitude towards drugs. He said;

“When psychiatric drugs were first introduced 60 years ago they were ‘revolutionary’ as at that time the primary treatment approach was long- term psychotherapy, which is very expensive…and didn’t work. Now there has been a loss of memory and people’s expectations about medication have gone up.”

Why are people avoiding antidepressants?

The Prescription Dread report found that 14% of respondents had been dissuaded from taking prescription drugs again because of side effects, 15% who had taken antidepressants had found them to be ineffective and 12% had to stop taking antidepressants altogether – either because they were ineffective or due to the side effects becoming unbearable.

According to the NHS, side effects of antidepressants can include:

  • feeling agitated, shaky or anxious;
  • feeling and being sick;
  • indigestion and stomach aches;
  • diarrhoea or constipation;
  • loss of appetite;
  • dizziness;
  • not sleeping well (insomnia), or feeling very sleepy;
  • headaches;
  • low sex drive or sexual dysfunction.

Dr Neal associates the negative attitude towards antidepressants with what he calls “zombiefication”. He describes this side effect as a “lack of variability of mood” where “patients don’t feel happy or depressed. And they’re just sort of stuck in the middle”.

An average of 24% of the UK population believing that their GP should offer an alternative treatment to antidepressants. Could Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) be the answer depression patients are searching for?

Dr Neal explains about TMS in more detail;

“TMS is a pulsing electromagnetic field, [which] is able to stimulate electrical currents on the surface of the cortex of the brain. Over a period of time, it propagates the effects from the surface of the cortex, down into the deeper parts of brain. It has an effect on the neurotransmitters, and on neuroplasticity within the brain.”

Why choose TMS as a depression treatment?

Dr Neal argues that TMS is better than antidepressants;

“Based on a rolling audit kept by Smart TMS, it [TMS] can get roughly 60% of its patients into remission and 75% have a more than 30% reduction in symptoms.”

TMS also has a much lower relapse rate than antidepressants, so not only are more people getting better, less are falling back into their depression. With side effects of TMS including:

  • a mild headache
  • mild fatigue
  • twitching face muscles during treatment
  • tingling sensation at the site of the treatment

There is also a 1 in 50,000 chance of seizure when receiving TMS, although Dr Neal highlights;

“In the five years the company has been working in this area, not a single patient has had a convulsion – in fact he had never heard of a patient in the UK having a convulsion as a result of TMS.”

From a psychiatrist’s perspective, Dr Neal feels that the quality of the recovery from depression is better with TMS. Primarily, it doesn’t cause the feelings of ‘zombiefication’. Once 30 sessions are complete, the patient is able to live their life as normal with normal moods and normal responses, rather than putting chemicals into their body daily for an unspecified time.

To read the article in full, please see


Do you want to learn more about TMS treatment?

Our team of patient advisors are on hand to answer any questions you have about TMS. You can call the team on 0345 222 5678 or contact us using the form below.

We have the largest network of clinics within the UK and Ireland and our clinic-based practitioners are happy to arrange for you to visit them in person to learn more.



For any other queries about TMS or for patients wishing to book an appointment at one of our UK clinics, please contact us:

Irish patients may contact our Dublin Clinic direct on: