Antidepressants Not Much More Effective Than A Placebo

There's a call to de-emphasise medication.

13/05/2016 3:56 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Antidepressants are on par with a placebo.

One in 10 Australian adults take antidepressants daily but new research suggests they're only marginally more effective than a placebo.

In a research review published by The Medical Journal of Australia, Doctor Christopher Davey said the effectiveness of antidepressants was lower than previously thought.

Davey told The Huffington Post Australia he delved into the subject after his own experience at Orygen Youth Health service.

"I work in the clinic here which is a service for 15 to 25 year olds with severe and complex depression," Davey said.

"Quite commonly, patients referred to us are already taking a medication or we prescribe it quite soon.

"It's this concern I have -- are we actually doing anything useful in giving a medication?"

The report said the discovery that antidepressants are only marginally better than a placebo, illustrates "the statistical concept of regression to the mean, whereby patients with depressive symptoms at baseline tend to recover over time irrespective of treatment".

The release of the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the 1980s encouraged people to think of depression as a chemical imbalance that needed to be corrected with medication, the authors wrote.

Davey said he hoped the research review would put antidepressants in perspective.

"The medications are modestly effective," Davey said.

"They still are more effective than taking a placebo pill but the gap isn't that large.

"The main argument we wanted to make was that antidepressants shouldn't be the only treatment people consider for depression.

"We want to de-emphasise medication because it seems to be too much the main focus for treatments."

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