Depression Drugs: Do They Work As Well As Everyone Says

Depression Drugs: Do They Work As Well As Everyone Says?
New Research Points to "No"

© 2011 Health Realizations, Inc


When antidepressant medications first hit the markets in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, flocks of frenzied masses ran out to buy the drugs because they were hailed as a cure for depression and other mood disorders. Pharmaceutical companies, many scientists, and even doctors were quick to prescribe the new medications (most of which were selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs) to patients suffering from depression because they showed promising results in published clinical trials.



Is medication really the best option for treating depression? Get the facts before you decide.

However, these “published” results were only half of the real story behind the popular pills.

The Real Facts about Antidepressants

A recent research study published in the journal PLoS (Public Library of Science) revealed a less flattering view of antidepressants’ abilities because it combined research from several trials instead of just one.

The report argued that "each individual trial provides some information about the new drug's effectiveness but additional information can be gained by combining the results of all the trials in a “meta-analysis,” a statistical method for combining the results of many studies."

What was most intriguing about this meta-analysis was the fact that much of the research had not been released to the public before. Upon retrieving the full set of results about some major medications from the FDA under the Freedom of Information Act, the researchers found information that showed how the effects of many SSRI antidepressant medications were not much more significant than the effects of placebos.

Specifically they said:

"...compared with placebo, the new-generation antidepressants do not produce clinically significant improvements in depression in patients who initially have moderate or even very severe depression, but show significant effects only in the most severely depressed patients. The findings also show that the effect for these patients seems to be due to decreased responsiveness to placebo, rather than increased responsiveness to medication."

The research, done by Professor Irving Kirch and colleagues, was ground-breaking because it opened the floodgates for a wave of backlash against the governing bodies that are in charge of accepting and rejecting new drugs into the mainstream market. About these governing bodies, the report stated:

"Although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), and other licensing authorities have approved SSRIs for the treatment of depression, some doubts remain about their clinical efficacy."

So Does that Mean All Antidepressant Medication is Dangerous?

As with all medication, careful study and application is required to ensure that it is suited to the people taking it. While some people find positive results from mainstream SSRI medication, it is important to be aware of ALL the research out there. While Prozac’s makers (Eli Lilly & Company) claim that:

"In controlled trials used to support the efficacy of fluoxetine (the clinical name for Prozac), patients were administered morning doses ranging from 20 to 80 mg/day. Studies comparing fluoxetine 20, 40, and 60 mg/day to placebo indicate that 20 mg/day is sufficient to obtain a satisfactory response in Major Depressive Disorder in most cases."

Professor Kirch's study found that:

"Given these results, the researchers conclude that there is little reason to prescribe new-generation antidepressant medications to any but the most severely depressed patients unless alternative treatments have been ineffective."

So who do you believe in the war of words surrounding antidepressants?

The research in the latter study combines results of all trials, as opposed to just one, so it may bode well for all sufferers of depression to take note of it. Also the research comes from a group of doctors not affiliated with major pharmaceutical companies.

In addition to the controversy surrounding the benefits of these drugs in tests, there are other problems that have been linked to modern SSRI antidepressant medications that you should be aware of.

What are the Other Dangers of SSRI Medications?

There are many side effects to most major antidepressants on the market today. Some of them are:

  • Nausea

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety

  • Anorexia

  • Reduced libido

  • Tremors

Most troubling, however, are the side effects published in the black box warning label of the drug itself. The warning found on the Prozac packages states:

"Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders."

The warnings don’t stop there though. In the book Talking Back to Prozac by Peter Breggin, MD and Ginger Ross Breggin, the authors found some more concerning findings about the antidepressant drugs. It says:

"Nine of fifteen recently approved medications developed serious postapproval [by the FDA] risks, including one that had to be withdrawn from the market...after it was found to cause potentially fatal immune system disorders."

In addition, they also found that Xanax, another medication often used to treat depression, was found to cause "paradoxical rage reactions."

All these facts make mainstream antidepressants sound rather scary, don't they?

Are There Alternatives to Antidepressants for Depression?


Exercise is proven to benefit people with depression, and often the improvements rival those experienced by people taking antidepressant drugs.

There are many alternative treatments for depression out there today. Many experts, including The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), recommend that patients try counseling and psychotherapy before they turn to prescription antidepressants.

In addition to psychotherapy, many scientists agree that people suffering from depression must also make efforts to:

  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise regularly
  • Sleep regularly
  • Reduce their stress level
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol

If you are suffering from depression there are also natural herbal remedies, which are proven to improve mood disorders without the heavy side effects often found in common drugs.

Supportive nutrients to ask your health care provider about include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, such as OmegAvail™ Lemon Drop Smoothie, which is packed with 1100mg of EPA and 720mg DHA (a total of 1820mg) and is manufactured using a proprietary emulsification technology that significantly reduces the size of fish oil molecules, resulting in enhanced absorption.

  • Vitamin B12 (such as methylcobalamin)


In addition there are many natural supplements that combine specially designed herbs and vitamins for mood stabilization. One such supplement you can ask your health care provider about is NeuroCalm™, which promotes activity of GABA and serotonin, and may help improve mood and support greater feelings of calm and satisfaction.

The controversy surrounding antidepressants (their dangers versus their benefits) will, likely, rage on for years. The real side effects of drugs usually take decades to surface, so in the meantime, it is important for anyone suffering from depression to be aware of ALL the information out there.

There are always major risks that come with taking medication, so make sure you always check with your health care practitioner before starting ANY program. Most importantly though, be proactive about finding out everything – including the good, the bad, and the controversial – about your medication before you decide to take it– it could change your life forever.


Sources February 26, 2008

Eli Lilly. Prozac prescribing information 2007-06-21. (PDF)

Significance, Volume 5, Number 2, June 2008 , pp. 54-58(5)

U.S. FDA "Clinical Review: Relationship Between Antidepressant Drugs and Suicidality in Adults" (PDF)

Does B12 deficiency lead to lack of treatment response to conventional antidepressants?

Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12.

The methylation, neurotransmitter, and antioxidant connections between folate and depression