Shake-up Or Wake-Up

The commotion over the study that said anti-depressants are a waste of time for all but the most severely depressed people, has continued to escalate.

It hit the middle editorial pages of my local city’s newspaper, and that means the story is big!

Much of the criticism that I have read of this study has been badly unscientific. A number of medical authorities seem to have come out with rather rash and half-baked defenses of their position.

Meanwhile there is a small debate building around the actual study itself which was published online in a format that allows comments.

For reference you can find the original study here:

Initial Severity and Antidepressant Benefits: A Meta-Analysis of Data Submitted to the Food and Drug Administration

This is an excerpt from my comments on the site:

It is interesting to see the commotion this study has caused, and rightly so.

Even more interesting has been the media reporting. They have been talking about the biological description of depression (eg biochemical imbalance in the brain) even as they are reporting that the drugs don’t work to anywhere near the level previously promoted.

The media is brainwashed to parrot what it has been told, even when there is a gaping hole in the theory.

Brain chemistry is not like insulin for diabetics.

It is also interesting to hear people who have received anti-depressants, and clinicians who prescribed them, somehow thinking they could not be responding to a placebo.

“All this evidence I have seen with my own eyes can’t be wrong” had been the catch-cry of quacks and the quasi-scientific, but it seems it is just the same here. Too many doctors, and patients, are not going about this scientifically.

If this paper is right then it says these drugs should not have gotten onto the market in the first place…

… We can’t offer talk therapy to all of the 5-15% of the western world that is supposedly “depressed”, but it’s no value overstating the benefits of medication either.

Far from being a step backwards I would like to see medicine, and psychiatry in particular, take this as a giant wake-up call for the 21st Century.

Hey, well I’m a wishful thinker 🙂

You can find all the direct comments on this landmark study here.

-Dr Martin Russell

2 thoughts on “Shake-up Or Wake-Up”

  1. What does this spell for those who are taking anti-depressants then? What if they spotted this on the news? They might end up becoming even more depressed than before. But I have to agree that media also has the tendency to just report what they’ve been told, investigate later. Sometimes, it ends up causing more harm than good.

  2. Julie I find your comments incredible.

    Are you proposing we should have kept hidden the evidence that by-and-large anti-depressants don’t work?

    More harm than good? That’s a very short-term assessment.

    For the patients I have discussed this research with they feel vindicated in why anti-depressants didn’t work for them! Admittedly people who see me are already a biased bunch because of my particular style of practice, but false hope is NOT a solution for depression.

    People who have been hoping anti-depressants will cure them, have wasted money, time and focus that should have been directed elsewhere.

    To them I say “Get angry, take responsibility for being the one who delegated responsibility to the chemicals, and rely on your own results. If chemicals worked for you, great. If they didn’t work then you’re not alone, but get on with searching for what else can do it for you.”

    Reality checks are not intrinsically harmful. Ignoring them however will eventually cause bigger troubles.

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