Newsweek: Antidepressants Depressingly Wonky

An excellent Newsweek cover story today brings the sad news that antidepressants depressingly don't work. Which is sad, because - among other reasons - a lot of people use them. What's even worse, however, is that they work less than placebos.

Sharon Begley writes that last month, The Journal of the American Medical Association published "landmark" work that the pros of taking anti-depressants aren't that much greater than people on placebos of antidepressants, who think they're taking drugs to get happy. Essentially, Begley writes, "antidepressants are basically expensive Tic Tacs." Even more, the drug companies were like, "Well, you're (basically) right, but you are all unique snowflakes, and that's what keeps us in business!"

They point out that the average is made up of some patients in whom there is a true drug effect of antidepressants and some in whom there is not. As a spokesperson for Lilly (maker of Prozac) said, "Depression is a highly individualized illness," and "not all patients respond the same way to a particular treatment."

Patients and doctors are pissed! Furthermore, in order for the "placebo effect" to take hold, patients actually have to be convinced that they're taking anti-depressants. Keeping that in mind, and the numbers Begley used to demonstrate the scale of the problem (anywhere from 13.1M to 14.2M Americans suffer from diagnosed depression, a little over half of them are medicated for it, most of those medicated are helped), an incredibly sad, fucked-up truth emerges: Over half of this country could be (or needs to be) lied to with the intent of survival at hand. Furthermore, these are people who are smarter, richer, and more creative than those who aren't depressed, as depression was also recently deemed a "mental adaptation." Swallow that.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]


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