Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania just published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that examined 30 years of antidepressant-drug treatment data. The researchers found that patients with less severe cases of depression showed little to no improvement in their depression compared to those patients with severe depression. The researchers concluded that, "The ability of the antidepressant medications to reduce depressive symptoms varied considerably. For people whose depression was considered to be mild, moderate or even severe, little evidence showed that the medications yield specific benefit beyond what is provided by engagement in treatment and the resulting boost in the patient's expectation for improvement."
This study presents interesting findings that both patients and clinicians should consider during treatment. There are numerous scholarly articles and personal commentaries on the efficacy of antidepressants in adults, just Google this and more than 700,000 links come back. While the stigma of Mental Illness is still pervasive in our culture (see: To Tell or Not To Tell: Mental Illness in the Workplace), I believe that antidepressants actually present less of a stigma. TV is saturated for ads promoting a pill to reduce symptoms of depression, flip through any magazine and you are bound to see an ad for an antidepressant. In addition, many general practitioners will prescribe antidepressants upon request from their patients. Given the authors' findings, it begs the question, are antidepressants over prescribed? Is the physician really looking at the patients' best interest?
For those who deal with mild to moderate depression (and medication just isn't working), there are lots of methods to help ease the symptoms of depression. For example, exercise (see: Choreographed Dance Movement to Promote Health and Balance), mindfulness meditation and talk therapy have been shown to be effective treatments for symptoms of depression.
But to be clear, the Study's lead author, Jay Fournier asserts that “For very severe depressions, the benefits of medications are clear and substantial.”
What are your experiences with antidepressants? Do you think that anti-depressants are over-prescribed?
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