Do Antidepressants Really Work?

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If you struggle with depression, your physician may recommend you take an antidepressant. The question that often comes up is how effective are antidepressants?

A new mega analysis looked to answer this question, especially concerning the most commonly prescribed antidepressants -the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). What they found was that compared to those people taking placebos, those patients without early adverse events, reduced their report of depressive symptoms.

In general, SSRIs for the treatment of depression work, but not for every patient. The take away message was to not deter patients for taking these drugs for depression. However, this question of effectiveness is not without controversy.

In 2012, psychologist Irving Kirsch, PhD, associate director of the Program in Placebo Studies at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts told 60 minutes that there were no clinical differences in the effectiveness of antidepressants vs placebo in depression.

The American Psychiatry Association (APA) made a strong counter statement to the message in the TV broadcast, feeling Dr. Kirsch’s message was harmful to people taking or considering the use of antidepressants.

But Dr. Kirsch is not convinced that this study has enough significant results to say these drugs are effective. He says that a patient should look at the side-effect profile and health risks and then use the safest of the alternative treatments available. For Dr. Kirsch that doesn’t necessarily mean using an SSRI. His conclusion? The positive effect of this study is so small that he considers it clinically insignificant.

So the battle continues. Is the use of antidepressants more of a placebo effect in terms of patients seeing improvement or do the drugs work well against the fight of depression.

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