Are Antidepressants Worth It? | Juliana Ordonez

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Are Antidepressants Worth It?

About 11.5 percent of U.S. adults reported taking psychiatric drugs for emotion and nerve problems in 2011, according to a survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Such number rose within two years.

In 2013, 16.7 percent of 242 million Americans filled one or more prescriptions for psychiatric drugs, Thomas Moore and Donald Mattison of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in Alexandria, Virginia found.

The study also revealed that twice as many white people use these drugs as do minorities. “20.8 percent of white adults reported the use of psychiatric drugs versus 8.7 percent of Hispanic adults. About 9 percent of African-Americans and 5 percent of Asian- Americans reported taking these medications,” they wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine Network.

Twelve percent of U.S. adults admitted that they took antidepressants, 8.3 percent said they used sleeping pills or anxiety medications and 1.6 percent used antipsychotic drugs, which means that one in six Americans take antidepressants.

Do antidepressants work?

The answer is- No

The nerve cells in the brain need chemicals to transmit impulses. The absence of certain chemicals like serotonin affect nerve connections. Such imbalance leads to anxiety, sleep problems, and suicidal thoughts. To fix these symptoms, doctors prescribe antidepressants to increase the availability of these chemicals in the brain. However, antidepressants only work to a certain extent.

“Some antidepressants raise serotonin levels, some reduce it, and some have no effect on serotonin,” psychologist Irving Kirsch said. As a psychotherapist, I referred my depressed patients for prescriptions of antidepressant drugs. Some would improve and some would not. When they improved, I assumed the drug made them feel better. That’s when I decided to study the placebo effect on depression.”

Placebos had a substantial effect on depression.

“Seventy-five percent of patients on antidepressants improved with dummy pills with no active ingredients on them,” he added.

Experts criticized Kirsch’ findings. They said that he relied on misleading data and unreliable clinical trials.

To respond to these critics, Kirsch relied on the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA.

Kirsch submitted an FOIA request to the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to get the data that drug companies filed for approval. Pharmaceutical companies sponsor their trials, but the FDA requires them to submit all information on their clinical trials. Drug companies failed to publish almost half of their clinical trials.

However, doctors prescribe 29 percent of antidepressants to treat anxiety, insomnia, pain, panic attacks, fibromyalgia, migraines, compulsive disorders, and menopause symptoms. Only 43 percent of the trials on all antidepressants that the FDA approved between 1983 and 2008 showed benefits on depression, while the remaining 57 percent failed to treat depression effectively.

So, how do pharmaceutical companies get away with this?

The FDA does not force drug manufacturers to publish failed trials. The FDA only requires two adequately conducted clinical trials showing a significant difference between the benefits and disadvantages of a product. Negative trials do not count, only statistically significant results.