Clearing Up the Confusion Over Antidepressants’ Effectiveness
A recent study examining how well antidepressants work has stirred debate and raised more than a few questions. It concludes that, whereas antidepressant medications substantially benefit people with severe depression, they appear to have little or no effect over placebo in people with mild or moderate depression.
Those startling findings have left some people with depression wondering whether to continue taking their antidepressant medications. But according to several experts, it’s premature to change antidepressant prescribing habits because the study had some notable limitations.
First, the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is a meta-analysis, not a clinical trial. Rather than independently testing antidepressants’ effectiveness in a large sample of people with depression, it pooled data from six previous trials.
In addition, experts point out that the JAMA study examined data on just a couple of the antidepressants currently on the market: the tricyclic antidepressant imipramine and the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor paroxetine. It remains to be seen whether these results can and should be generalized to all antidepressants.
The bottom line: Continue to take your antidepressant medication. If you have concerns about the effectiveness of your depression treatment, talk to your doctor. Remember, you need to allow a reasonable time period to see how well your current antidepressant is working. It’s also common for people with depression to try a few antidepressant medications before finding one that works. Consider psychotherapy, too. Research shows that talk and behavioral therapies effectively relieve depression symptoms. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.