Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Antidepressants: Definitely not the "death of the soul"

In a seminal essay in 1996, Tom Wolfe announced, "Sorry but your soul just died." In those days, people - including Wolfe - assumed that a person's mind could be completely manipulated by chemical concoctions.

Well, they - and he - were wrong.

Look at the results from a recent study:
Prescribing anti-depressants to the vast majority of patients is futile, as the drugs have little or no impact at all, according to researchers.

Almost 50 clinical trials were reviewed by psychologists from the University of Hull who found that new-generation anti-depressants worked no better than a placebo – a dummy pill – for mildly depressed patients.

Even the trials that suggested some clinical benefit for the most severely depressed patients did not produce convincing evidence. Professor Irving Kirsch from the university’s psychology department said: “The difference in improvement between patients taking placebos and patients taking anti-depressants is not very great.

“This means that depressed people can improve without chemical treatments. Given these results, there seems little reason to prescribe anti-depressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients.”

Does anyone remember when anti-depressant pills were little round gods? Never for me, as it happens, but certainly for people I knew.

Obviously, if people are suicidal, they need help, and maybe antidepressants will help. But the idea that a pill is a big "answer" is obviously wrong.