No benefit of antidepressants in inpatient treatment of depression. A longitudinal, quasi-experimental field study

This article by Reinhard Maß, Kerstin Backhaus, Katharina Lohrer, Michael Szelies and Bodo K. Unkelbach has been published in Psychopharmacology.

The abstract says:


Antidepressants (AD) are mostly considered indispensable for the treatment of major depression. The vast majority of depressive inpatients are treated with AD. However, there is a growing body of studies indicating that the effectiveness of AD is greatly overestimated due to methodological issues with the AD efficacy studies (e.g., publication bias, unintentional unblinding, confusion between withdrawal symptoms and relapse).


The benefit of the additional use of AD in the inpatient treatment of depression with intensive cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been investigated in a naturalistic design.


Depressiveness was assessed using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) during a preliminary interview (T0), at admission (T1), at discharge (T2), and at a 6-month follow-up (T3). Two study phases were compared: During Phase A, AD were recommended in accordance with the German guideline. In Phase B, AD were no longer recommended, and they were only prescribed upon explicit request from patients. In phase A (N = 574), 60.3% of all patients were taking AD at discharge. In Phase B (N = 424), 27.9% of patients were on AD at discharge. Apart from the difference in AD usage, the two treatment conditions were similar, and the samples did not significantly differ in terms of age, sex, diagnoses, history of suicide attempts, comorbid anxiety disorders, and unemployment.


In both study phases, BDI-II scores were strongly decreased at T2 and T3, respectively, compared with T1. The BDI-II scores of the two phases did not differ at any of the measurement time points. Depression changes were similar in both phases. In sequential multiple regression analyses with the total sample, AD were no significant predictors for the reduction of depression at either T2 or T3.


The inpatient CBT was effective in depression. The effectiveness of CBT is not improved by the additional use of AD. The current prescribing practices of AD should be questioned.”

You can read the article from here.

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