Antidepressants: The Emperor’s New Drugs?

“It turned out that 75 percent of the antidepressant effect was also produced by placebos – sugar pills with no active ingredients that are used to control of the effects of hope and expectation in clinical trials.”

Dr. Irving Kirsch is Associate Director of the Program in Placebo Studies and lecturer in medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

In 2011 he wrote:

“Antidepressants are supposed to be the magic bullet for curing depression. But are they? I used to think so. As a clinical psychologist, I used to refer depressed clients to psychiatric colleagues to have them prescribed. But over the past decade, researchers have uncovered mounting evidence that they are not. It seems that we have been misled. Depression is not a brain disease, and chemicals don’t cure it.

My awareness that the chemical cure of depression is a myth began in 1998, when Guy Sapirstein and I set out to assess the placebo effect in the treatment of depression. Instead of doing a brand new study, we decided to pool the results of previous studies in which placebos had been used to treat depression and analyze them together. What we did is called a meta-analysis, and it is a common technique for making sense of the data when a large number of studies have been done to answer a particular question …”

You can read more here.

And here you can do a free online course – “The Emperor’s New Drugs : Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect” – presented by Dr. Kirsch on the website of the Mad in America Foundation.


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