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27 March 2008

Are antidepressants really effective? Maybe not…

Positive results of many trials on new generation antidepressants have been strongly promoted by the drug industry to convince us that these drugs are helpful in depression. Are we merely being sold a very good placebo?

Around 50% of people with MS become depressed at some time during the illness.

The usual response to this by medical staff is to prescribe antidepressants, without considering the clearly shown benefits of exercise, meditation, omega 3 supplementation, counselling and empowerment on relieving depression.

A drug-only approach to depression is not only poor medical practice, meta-analyses published in the last few years have seriously questioned whether these drugs actually do anything at all above and beyond their placebo effect. It has been well established that a great proportion of the benefits of antidepressants comes from this placebo effect. While many people who take these drugs swear by them, that is often what happens with the placebo effect; the strong evidence from meta-analysis of all the published trials shows that the short term benefit is small, and the long term balance of benefit versus risk has not really been studied, despite many people taking these drugs for years on end.

It is really worth weighing all this up if you are prescribed antidepressants.