And that makes me sad 😪
A big, new study about antidepressants came out in a medical journal last week. It concluded that antidepressants were “modestly” effective compared to placebo, and listed which drugs seem to offer the most help with the fewest side effects.
But the media seem to have taken the study a step further; they’ve been reporting that based on this information, more people should be taking antidepressants.
That’s not what the study said!
Newsweek was the worst: Antidepressants do work, and many more people should take them
Please don’t take medical advice from the media, or at least read past the headline.
The health news watch dog group Health News Review gave the article an “unsatisfactory” score for the quality of its reporting.
… the headline goes far beyond the scope of the study by claiming that “many more people” should take antidepressants. That assertion isn’t supported by anything in the story itself, and it’s a major misstep in our view, as treatment decisions should always be fully-informed, shared encounters between people and their physicians.
The story didn’t alert readers that most antidepressants were found to offer only a modest benefit, and side effects weren’t considered.
The story also missed study limitations and a conflict of interest for one of the people quoted.
Antidepressants are best used for moderate to severe depression
There is no question that depression and anxiety are serious health problems in this country. More people than ever are already taking antidepressants.
The medical professionals I’ve talked with believe mild depression is being overtreated with prescription drugs, while severe depression is being undertreated.
They also advise antidepressants be used short-term (I know people who are on these drugs for years), and in combination with psychotherapy (aka talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy).
I’ve had several friends and family members who needed treatment for depression and/or anxiety. I always take their pain seriously and counsel getting professional help. Untreated depression and anxiety can make life miserable and can snowball into a life-threatening illness.
I’ve had my doubts about the effectiveness of antidepressants, but this new study makes it clear that they do provide some benefit. However, there are still side effects and cost to consider. Trintellix (vortioxetine) was listed in the study as being one of the more effective drugs, but it’s also a newer one and is very expensive.
- Get help! Talk to your physician about treatment options if you think you are depressed or anxious.
- For mild symptoms, your physician may consider psychotherapy and watchful waiting to see if the symptoms get worse.
- For moderate to severe symptoms, your physician may want to prescribe antidepressants in combination with psychotherapy.
As with any prescription drug, weigh the benefits and the risks. Ask questions so you feel confident you understand why the drug is necessary, how it works, what side effects to watch for, and how long you should take it.
For more about depression, anxiety and prescription drugs, check out these books: