Prescription placebos used in research and pra...

Prescription placebos used in research and practice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


How many of you have heard the rumor that antidepressant medications are no better than placebos?  Unfortunately a lot of people pass this along without actually having seen what the research really says. A great article in the April 2013 issue of Scientific American Mind“When Pretending is the Remedy” explains the placebo effect and also why you should not ditch your antidepressants if you have a serious mental illness. Here is an excerpt:

In 2002 Harvard psychologist Irving Kirsch found results consistent with the idea that the power of placebos is evident mostly when improvement is subjective, as it is in mental illness. In a meta-analysis of 47 trials of six of the most widely prescribed antidepressants, Kirsch and his colleagues discovered that 82 percent of the improvement in mood, as measured by a standard questionnaire, could be duplicated by giving patients a placebo pill instead of an antidepressant. In a similar study published in 2008, Kirsch and his colleagues found that the only people in whom antidepressants worked significantly better than placebo pills were patients with the most severe cases. He reached a controversial conclusion: “Unless your patient is extremely depressed, you should not be prescribing an anti-depressant.”

In other words, you don’t need heavy-duty psychiatric medication if you are not seriously ill. Most mild cases of depression get better on their own anyway. Also counseling and exercise are good options as well. I have been concerned for a long time about the push to put every depressed person on psychotropic drugs that can be hard to get off of.  Usually the depression is situational, not biological. Plus it trivializes true mental illness and makes it hard to explain to friends and family that we need them. But for those of us who have a serious mental illness, it is not a good idea to stop our medications.

(Note: In order to view this article on-line you have to buy access to it. They also have this under a different title than the print version so don’t get confused by that. Since the majority of the article is not about mental illness, then you may or may not feel it is worth it to buy that issue. However it is a great magazine to keep up with the latest psychological discoveries.)

Here are some other articles from Science Daily that are very interesting:

Antidepressants linked with increased risks after surgery

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 01:46 PM PDT

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – among the most widely prescribed antidepressant medications – are associated with increased risk of bleeding, transfusion, hospital readmission and death when taken around the time of surgery, according to a new analysis.

Sniffing out schizophrenia

Posted: 29 Apr 2013 10:05 AM PDT

Scientists have developed an innovative method for diagnosing schizophrenia by collecting neural tissues from the nose. The finding could lead to early detection of the disease, giving rise to vastly improved treatment overall.