For more than two decades, antidepressants like Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil or Effexor have become household names. They are widely used to treat the most common mental illness. But do they really work as well as most of us think? This question is being briskly debated by medical professionals, as the point-counterpoint in BMJ (Jan. 22, 2013) demonstrates.
Drugs Are Not Always More Effective Than Placebo
Research studies show that these SSRI drugs don’t always work better than the inert sugar pills they are tested against. But that doesn’t mean there is no hope for people with depression. Several non-drug approaches are at least as effective as antidepressants. Knowing how to evaluate the benefits and risks of SSRI medications can help patients make good decisions in partnership with their physicians.
Irving Kirsch, PhD, is Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies at the Harvard Medical School, lecturer in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Professor of Psychology at the University of Plymouth (UK), and Professor Emeritus at the University of Hull and the University of Connecticut. His book is The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth. The photo is of Dr. Kirsch.
Erick Turner, MD, is Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Department of Pharmacology, Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), Portland OR.