Overcoming Depression: What about Antidepressant Medications?
The use of antidepressant medications to treat depression is currently the most common form of treatment, a tribute to the triumph of marketing over science. Billions of dollars are spent to lead us to believe that depression is a disease and that medications are the best treatment. The drug companies’ financial investment in advertising to consumers is well rewarded when people by the millions take the drug because they believe it is the best hope of a cure.
So, beyond the drug company claims, just how effective are the antidepressants really?
For some people, the medication has a therapeutic benefit even though no one really knows why. Medications do help some people. For many people, the drug (or maybe it’s just the expectation of the drug) gives them a boost, a sense of being able to overcome their depression. They may start to feel better and then start doing things they need to do to get better. If the drug has a mechanism for actually changing depression, which is certainly possible, no one currently knows what that mechanism is. The idea of depression being caused by a “shortage of the neurotransmitter serotonin” was a hypothesis touted as fact, and that hypothesis has now been all but disproven. Calling depression a “disease” or “medical illness” sold literally billions of dollars in drugs, but did not shed much light on the actual causes of depression or what is most effective in drug treatment. Antidepressants as a sole form of treatment have the highest rate of relapse of any form of treatment, so just taking a drug is not much of a treatment plan.
In the last few years, there has been a growing backlash against antidepressant medications and with good reason. Evidence has come to light that the drug companies have engaged in extremely deceptive practices, deliberately falsifying data in research trials in order to get drugs approved by the government for widespread usage (and exceptionally large profits). They have lied about the safety of the drugs, leading people to believe they are safer than they really are. They have also lied about the effectiveness of the drugs, greatly exaggerating their value while also minimizing their potentially hazardous side effects. The lawsuits are well underway because of the harm many have suffered.
Even for those who view drug treatments favorably, they would still have to acknowledge that no drug can identify your personal vulnerabilities, teach you better problem-solving skills, coping skills, and relationship skills. Nor can they help you build a support network, or help with the many things that can make a huge positive difference beyond the drug’s effects. Psychotherapy should be a part of any formal treatment plan for this reason. A so-called “combined therapy” of drugs and psychotherapy are generally recommended, but too few people receive such treatments.
These website pages address the mood disorder known as major depressive disorder, or major depression, in general terms. It is not a substitute for professional diagnosis and/or treatment by a qualified mental health professional for any individual. It provides visitors to the site with an expert’s informed perspectives in order to help guide a sensible recovery from the burden of depression.