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Are antidepressants overprescribed?

Antidepressants are chemicals that work by affecting either the release or reuptake of neurotransmitters, natural chemicals in the brain used to regulate core functions such as emotion. Roughly 10% of Americans are prescribed antidepressants. Skeptics have suggested that many antidepressants are in some cases no more effective than placebos.

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Experts and Influencers

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Experts In Psychology

Irving Kirsch    Psychology Professor
The difference in improvement between patients taking placebos and patients taking anti-depressants is not very great. This means that depressed people can improve without chemical treatments. Given these results, there seems little reason to prescribe anti-depressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients, unless alternative treatments have failed to provide a benefit.
26 Feb 2008    Source

Experts In Health

Ronald Dworkin    Anesthesiologist
...biogenic immune theory [...] associates clinical depression with a neurotransmitter imbalance. ... But primary care doctors [overextended the theory which is reasonable for] clinical depression [to] everyday unhappiness... These are all leaps of faith. This is not real science.
24 Nov 2008    Source

Erick Turner    Psychiatry Professor
If I hadn't worked at the FDA, I wouldn't have known that these negative trials [of antidepressants] existed. Later, when I came to academia, I saw a naiveté among my colleagues and medical professionals, this belief that if something is published in a journal, it must be so. I felt it was wrong that medical professionals, on the front lines treating patients, should be getting a sanitized view of drug efficacy—they need to know the whole story.
01 May 2009    Source

Experts In Science

Robin Hanson    Economics Professor
A meta-analysis of SSRI anti-depressant medication, published in Feb '08, found almost no effect. ... And [it] doesn't take any account of leaky placebo effects, whereby drug side-effects convince people they have the real drug. Given their severe side-effects, I'm not sure I'd advise anti-depressants _even when_ other treatments have been ineffective.
12 Jun 2008    Source

Suggested Expert Quotes

Christopher Maloney
I have a fairly radical view of antidepressants, which is that they are ineffective over a few months. I base this view on the cochrane expert opinion which found exactly that (below). The more conservative estimates from the present analysis found that differences between antidepressants and active placebos were small. (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD003012)


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