Are Antidepressants Any Good?

The rise in the use of antidepressants has become disturbingly prolific since their introduction in the 1950’s. However, more studies are beginning to show that their use offers little benefit if any over placebo. This article discusses the issue of whether they are of any real benefit at all.

What Does the ‘Best Evidence’ Say About Antidepressants?

Depression can interfere with personal and work relationships, reduce work or academic performance and affect physical health by impairing your ability to properly care for yourself and make good health decisions, including decisions about nutrition and sleep. Imbalances in nutrition, weight fluctuations and poor sleep habits may in turn compromise your immune function.2

Unfortunately, antidepressant drugs — the most widely used therapy for depression — are also among the least effective. In fact, statistics suggest that far from being helpful, psychiatric drugs are making the situation worse.

Prozac was the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1987.10 Over the years, Prozac became the target of a number of lawsuits, as patients suffered all sorts of ill effects, from birth defects to suicide and serotonin syndrome, a condition caused by excess serotonin in the brain, leading to agitation, confusion, high blood pressure and more.11

In a recent segment of Full Measure (above), award-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson interviewed psychiatrist and director of the International Center for Patient-Oriented Psychiatry, Dr. Peter Breggin. He is known to many as “the conscience of psychiatry,” as he was instrumental in preventing the return of lobotomy as a psychiatric treatment in the early 1970s.

In Breggin’s view, “There is no promising medical treatment and probably there never can be,” for the simple reason that depression is primarily rooted in the complexity of human emotions and experiences. He believes one needs to avoid numbing and escapist behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, and implement strategies to support healthy brain function instead, in order to “be able to deal with your issues.”

While some psychiatric drugs may be helpful for a small minority of people with very severe mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, it’s quite clear that a vast majority of people using these drugs do not suffer from the type of psychiatric illnesses that might warrant their prudent use.

A 2010 meta-analysis21 concluded that “The magnitude of benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo increases with severity of depression symptoms and may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms.”

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