10 Facts About Antidepressants

facts about antidepressantsDepression is a common disorder, with 30 million American adults struggling with it daily.[1] In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, the amount of disability and life lost to depression will be greater than that from war, accidents, cancer, stroke, and all other health conditions aside from heart disease.1

The primary response to this issue has been largely biomedical, as depression is a chemical imbalance often looked to be corrected with antidepressants.1 However, depression statistics have only risen. Maybe it is time the approach is changed.1

Here are 10 troubling facts about antidepressants:

  1. Between 1996 and 2005, the annual rate of antidepressant treatment for people six years of age and older has increased dramatically to one out of every 10 Americans.1 This ultimately translates to 250 million prescriptions each year.1 Antidepressants are the most prescribed drug class for people aged 18 to 45.1
  2. A recent study found that pharmaceutical companies spend five billion dollars on direct-to-consumer advertising for antidepressants each year.1 They want the customer to ask for it by name.1
  3. Only 20 percent of antidepressant prescriptions are written by psychiatrists.1 Instead, most are written by professionals who have little specialized training in mental health.1
  4. One in six people who are prescribed antidepressants do not have depression or any other psychiatric diagnosis.1 A study found that a minority of people who had been told by their clinician that they suffer from depression actually meet the full criteria for the diagnosis when properly assessed.1
  5. While depression’s disease model is thought to reduce stigma, major scientific reviews have found that this isn’t so.1 In fact, people who are diagnosed with depression often feed off of the idea that they have a chemical imbalance, making them more pessimistic about the future, engage in self-blame, and believe that therapy will not help their situation.1
  6. While antidepressants do work better than placebo pills for people with severe depression, this has not been found for those with mild or moderate depression.1 Instead, therapy works better.1
  7. Antidepressants do not work as well in children and adolescents; however, there has been an increasing number of children being prescribed them.1
  8. Antidepressants have not been found to have increased efficacy over time, despite the 26 different antidepressants that have been introduced since imipramine was developed in the 1950s.1
  9. The Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) study found that the majority of people with depression do not experience long-term remission with antidepressants.1
  10. As pharmaceutical companies have scaled back significantly on antidepressant drug development, a breakthrough antidepressant is unlikely to be found anytime soon.1

However, this does not mean that antidepressants are worthless.1 They have played a large role in the treatment of depression and still should.1 We have just been expecting too much.1 Supplemental treatments, such as therapy, should be used to help increase positive results.1 Antidepressants should not be the sole response to depression.1

[1] Rottenberg, J. (2014, April 20). 10 Troubling Facts About Antidepressants. Psychology Today. Retrieved April 22, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/charting-the-depths/201404/10-troubling-facts-about-antidepressants

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