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Are Antidepressant Drugs Any Better Than A Placebo?

In today’s post I wanted to share with you some interesting news coming out of Harvard Medical School as reported on CBS’s 60 Minutes last night, Sunday, February 19th.

It appears that Irving Kirsch, the associate director of the Placebo Studies Program has stirred up some big time controversy on the effectiveness of antidepressants. The results of research studies by the Placebo Studies Program show the difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an antidepressant drugs is minimal for the majority of mild to moderate depressant patients. If you have become addicted to any type of drug check out these Choices Retreats.

While there’s no denying that many patients get better while taking these drugs, what is in question is whether or not the drugs are the real reason why. Could it be that patients are getting better due to the placebo effect of “thinking these drugs will make them well?”

As you can imagine this has raised a firestorm of criticism from pharmaceutical companies that produce these drugs and many psychiatrists that prescribe them. No surprises there as this is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Anyone who dares to challenge the benefit of drugs that produce billions of dollars in profits is sure to be put in the crosshairs. I’ve got to commend Dr. Kirsch for coming forward with his findings.

While it may be a bit too early to draw a definitely conclusion on the matter, this has certainly shed some light on the issue and increased public awareness. That’s always a good thing in my book.

Here’s the video of the story as reported on 60 Minutes. Click here.

Here are the big take-a-ways I got from the interview conducted by Leslie Stahl. Some of these points really got me thinking.

#1. The pharmaceutical companies that produce antidepressant drugs only have to show (2) clinical trials where the drug in question produced a positive benefit to qualify for FDA approval.

There may be ten other studies that showed little or no benefit but it doesn’t matter. Not surprisingly the pharmaceutical companies routinely only publish the studies which show the results that are in their favor.

This is not to attack the FDA as I’m sure there are some good people working in that agency. But some of the FDA policies make you step back and scratch your head. Are we really doing what’s best to determine not only the safety of pharmaceutical drugs but also the effectiveness?

With so much money at stake with the approval of these drugs it makes you wonder if the “tail is wagging the dog” instead of the other way around?

The prescription of antidepressant drugs has increased significantly over the past decade. Heck, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing a commercial for one of these drugs. Before starting an antidepressant visit centers like Resurgence Behavioral Health to get evaluated. Is there really such a sharp increase in the number of depressed people in our society, or just more of these drugs being marketed to the public as a solution?

If it was really a matter between physician and client why are millions of dollars being spent on advertising and marketing? I’ll leave that alone for now.

#2. The use of antidepressant drugs shows the most significant benefit in severely depressed individuals and therefore their use shouldn’t be completely negated.

The bigger point in question is the theory behind how most of these antidepressant drugs work. According to the report, most experts will tell you the whole theory behind depression and serotonin production in the brain is grossly over-simplified.

Could depression be more complicated than just the altering of certain chemicals in the brain? The placebo studies on mild to moderate depressed patients seem to indicate such.

Taking a look at the bigger picture with depression

Sooner or later we’ll have a better idea on the true effectiveness of antidepressant drugs. Opening the door on public awareness tends to help on these matters. I would agree with all the experts who say you should always talk to your physician first if you feel you’re suffering from depression.

Depending on his/her recommendations and their diagnosis you may want to consider alternative approaches to treating depression before jumping on prescription drugs.

There’s not nearly enough talk in my opinion on the effects of exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle habits in the treatment of depression. Why do we tend to think that a pill always has the answer to our physical or mental health problems?

I contend that maybe it’s because we’re conditioned to believe this from the perpetual bombardment of ads for prescription drugs.

The impact of daily physical activity and a supportive nutrition diet cannot be overlooked. Certainly this is not the end all answer to every health ailment, but it should be at the foundation of treatment and not an after-thought.

There is a strong mind-body connection that cannot be denied. Popping some pills while remaining inactive and eating a poor diet is sure to come with less than optimal results.

By all means don’t go cold turkey on any antidepressant and make sure to consult with your physician on any considered changes to your prescriptions. If anything I hope this just helps you to think outside of the box with matters of your health and wellness.

Don’t hesitate to question the validity of anything where so much money is at stake. Remember there’s no patent on exercise, a healthy diet, and other alternative treatments for depression.

I’d contend there’s probably no single magic bullet for the treatment of depression. It will arguably never come down to a single drug or intervention strategy.

Depression should be viewed as a wake- up call that something is out of balance. Chances are restoring balance is going to require changes with both mind and body.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know your comments by posting below.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston fitness trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness programs with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. You can receive a no-obligations personal training trial and consultation to experience the difference for yourself.

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