The Human Givens Institute summarises what can be said about antidepressants

“Antidepressants work in aggregate about as well as placebo which means about one third of people benefit.  But of course they do not pretend to treat the root cause and so there is a high rate of relapse.  And a quarter of users will do less well than placebo.”

And there are side effects – from an increased  suicide risk, loss of sex drive, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, headaches and so on  Finally, a third of those taking anti-depressants will suffer withdrawal symptoms.”

Now, read the summary of Charles O’Connell’s devastating critique of medication for mental illness in general and antidepressants in particular.  From the Human Givens Journal 2011

“When all the data of all is found and used, the efficacy of drugs in the field of mental health is invariably shown to be insignificant.  The pharmaceutical companies play on our ignorance and fear and the supply monopoly and high regulation of health services to cream us”

More from Mr O’Connell

  • Big Pharma controls all of the trials pertaining to their drugs and have total control of the information generated by these trials.
  • Data is distorted in a number of ways – e.g. only one trial needs to show results better than placebo – there can be 20 failures which will be hidden.
  • There are biases over the length of the study comparisons – which can always be manipulated in favour of the new drug.
  • The companies control the publication of clinical trials and have sole ownership of the data. It can therefore simply choose not to publish results unfavourable to the drug and if the results of the trial appear favourable, then drug companies will frequently publish the data in multiple publications taking slightly different angles in each paper and so having the effect of increasing the profile of the drug and making it appear more favourable than in fact it is.
  • The doctors cannot be trusted. Despite the tighter regulation, pharmaceutical companies are nothing if not extremely effective as marketing machines and the minor inconvenience of not being able to woo local doctors through their stomachs has not dented its influence. There will still be all-expenses-paid trips to exotic locations to present the findings of the trial of meetings that are often held solely for the purpose of launching the drug.
  • The medical industry has also expanded the definition of illness and created a range of conditions in the treatment of which the drug companies can sell their wares. The usual practice is to select an established condition, find certain features of it that had appeared to a much lesser extent in normal people and imply that the disorder is a continuum from mild to severe.
  • Non-illnesses created in this manner include male pattern baldness, short stature, erectile dysfunction, menopause, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and shyness.
  • In the area of mental health a huge range of conditions such as complex somatic symptoms disorder, separation anxiety disorder and schizotypical personality disorder has been invented to facilitate the sale of drugs to treat them.

Antidepressants don’t work

Mood in humans is regulated by a myriad of systems in the body including the neurotransmitters serotonin, noradrenalin, dopamine, glutamate gamma amino butyric acid (GABA) and endorphins. These neurotransmitters have multiple functions in the body and interact with many different receptors.  For serotonin alone, there are at least 13 receptor subtypes in the body at which serotonin exerts its effect.

There is much evidence that these various systems interact, serving to maintain a healthy balance by complex regulatory and compensatory relationships, as the brain is a plastic malleable organ, the natural dominance or recessive nurse of any of these systems can also be modulated through learned behaviour.

Despite this knowledge, the thrust of chemical treatment of low mood, sponsored by pharmaceutical companies with their compliant allies in the medical industry, has mainly been towards interacting with a single transmitter system, such as serotonin. The issue of efficacy of antidepressants was raised many years ago. Earlier studies from the 1980s and 1990s tended to suggest that impressed depressants were 20 to 30% more effective than placebo. More recently, meta analysis showed no differences at around 10 percent in recent meta-analysis – including all studies, published and unpublished (in other words including those hidden by the pharmaceutical industry). For antidepressants, the efficacy reached clinical significance only involving the most extremely depressed patients. And that this pattern is due to the increase in response to placebo rather than an increase in the response to medication.

When unpublished data are included, antidepressant efficacy comes strongly into question.

Another curiosity to these drugs that are advocated to clearly target the condition depression is the fact that manufacturers frequently expand the range of indications from the drug to increase the number of potential clients. The range can include such conditions as bulimia, OCD, generalised anxiety disorder, social phobia, panic disorder and post-dramatic stress disorder.

Overall, antidepressants have not been shown to substantially improve the plight of patients with low mood and are associated with many unpleasant and potentially harmful side-effects. It is little wonder that SSRIs have spectacularly failed to treat a condition for which they are marketed, but it is still extraordinary that antidepressants are the eighth most prescribed drug in the world with sales of $19 billion in 2009.

 Charles O’Connell – Human Givens Journal 2011