Major depressive disorder is estimated by the WHO to affect more than 300 million people globally, making depression the leading cause of disability worldwide. Antidepressants are commonly used to treat depression. However, the list of possible short-term and long-term side effects of antidepressant medication is long. Patients who try to stop taking antidepressant medications frequently encounter disabling withdrawal symptoms. In addition, many other non-medication based treatments have been proven to be extremely effective for treating depression with little to no side effects. These interventions include psychotherapy, diet changes, exercise, quitting alcohol and drug use and other lifestyle changes.
In my own clinical practice, I have found antidepressants to rarely be helpful and frequently be harmful. I have had much greater success treating depression by addressing the underlying causes, rather than prescribing an antidepressant medication. In addition, I have seen firsthand how difficult it is for individuals to wean themselves off of antidepressant medications, especially once they have been taking them for years.
A study, recently published in the British Medical Journal found exactly what I have seen in my own clinical practice. They conducted a large meta-analysis of many studies and concluded that “antidepressants seem to have minimal beneficial effects on depressive symptoms and increase the risk of both serious and non-serious adverse events.”
My hope is that many other psychiatrists will read this study and start to consider changing their approach to treating major depression. We have a lot of treatment options at our disposal, and it’s about time that we started using them!