By Community Relations Director Robert Pini
Do antidepressants work?
Some highly authoritative psychiatrists say antidepressants are no better than placebos. Others maintain they are extremely effective, enabling people with serious depression to find satisfying recovery.
Meanwhile, the use of antidepressants in the US is soaring. One in ten Americans uses antidepressants each year. So what’s the real story, are they effective, or do pharmaceutical companies in search of big profits push doctors to overprescribe? How can we make sense of these competing claims?
Before diving into the controversy, let’s be clear what we’re talking about. Antidepressants are used to treat depression and can improve mood, sleep, appetite and concentration. Possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, agitation, headaches, weight gain, loss of sexual drive, and withdrawal symptoms when use is discontinued.
Dozens of different antidepressant drugs are available, some with very familiar names like Prozak, Cymbalta, and Zoloft. What’s more, antidepressants are often prescribed for conditions other than depression, such as headaches and many neurological conditions.
United Counseling Service uses a person-centered approach to treatment, recognizing the different needs, strengths, and personality of each client. Typically, the course of treatment depends on the person and antidepressants are not automatically prescribed.
To maintain focus on the client and his or her needs, UCS works in a variety of ways to reduce the influence of pharmaceutical companies on staff and clients and to eliminate marketing hype so that it does not influence prescribing decisions.
While antidepressants can help many people, it’s important for someone with depression to find a care provider who is willing to listen, asks probing questions about how well they are responding, spends an appropriate amount of time, is willing to switch course if they don’t improve, and is even willing to consult with another expert colleague.
As the number of antidepressants coming onto the market has grown, so too has the prevalence of mental illness. How could this be if antidepressants really work?
So, back to the controversy, do antidepressants really work?
Reading the recent authoritative claims doesn’t make the matter any clearer. Marcia Angell, senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine has written very convincingly to debunk their effectiveness.
Peter D. Kramer, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University has written just as convincingly in defense of antidepressants.
If all of this makes your head swim, you’re not alone. At this point, perhaps the data is simply not there to provide a black and white answer. Depression is a complex problem that affects a broad population in different ways. Antidepressants also work diffrently with different people.
What’s your opinion? Do you think antidepressants work, or are they overhyped and overused? Or both? Leave a comment with your opinion.