The pharmaceutical industry makes over 12 billion pounds a year from antidepressant medication. Indeed, millions of adults and children take antidepressants and there are hundreds of thousands of doctors throughout the world who are happy to prescribe them.
However, it has been suspected by many for a long time that a proportion of any beneficial effect given by the taking of antidepressants is due to THE PLACEBO EFFECT (the PLACEBO EFFECT is a phenomenon whereby the patient’s BELIEF that a medication will help causes any improvement in his/her condition, not the drug itself.
A simple example of this would be to give someone who has a headache a dummy pill, such as a sugar pill, and then to tell the person who took it that it will cure his/her headache. Often, the person’s BELIEF the tablet will help him/her then causes an improvement. There is so much evidence of the placebo effect that it is now fully accepted by the scientific community – it is an excellent example of how the mind can affect the body).
A major study has now been undertaken to discover how much of any beneficial effect antidepressants have is not due to the drugs themselves, but, instead, to the placebo effect. The study was led by the academic, Professor Kirsch, from Harvard University.
His method was to take an overview of 38 studies which had already been conducted on the effects of antidepressants (psychologists refer to this as a meta-analysis). The SHOCKING DISCOVERY was that the data showed that antidepressants worked almost no better than placebos.
In other words, giving an individual an antidepressant for his/her depression, according to the extensive data reviewed by Professor Kirsch, is likely to work hardly any better than giving the individual a sugar (or ‘dummy’) pill. In fact, the difference in effect upon lessening depressive symptoms between the sugar pills and the antidepressants was found to be, by careful statistical analysis, CLINICALLY INSIGNIFICANT.
Further investigation of the data revealed that the proportion individuals who were helped more by the antidepressants than by the placebo (and, even then, only in a very minor way) was just 10-15% (those who had the most extreme forms of depressive illness).The majority, then (85-90%), were not helped in a significant way by antidepressants per se anymore than they would have been by a placebo.
Doctors have been made aware of this study, but a survey recently conducted has, worryingly, shown that over half of them did not intend to change the manner in which they prescribed antidepressants.
Whilst criticisms of Professor Kirsch’s study were made, particularly, unsurprisingly, by those who had a vested interest in the pharmaceutical industry, none of them, on analysis, have been shown to carry much weight. Additionally, a study commissioned by the NHS has SUPPORTED Professor Kirsch’s findings.
Despite these alarming findings, 235 prescriptions for antidepressants were made in the USA in 2010, and, in 2011, 47 million were made in the UK.
It is clear that there needs to be a major review of medical policy in relation the prescribing of antidepressants and that alternative ways of treating depression now need to be considered more than ever.
DISCLAIMER – DO NOT DISCONTINUE ANY MEDICATION WITHOUT FIRST SEEKING EXPERT MEDICAL ADVICE.
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