Why Anti-depressants Don't Work

Every once in a while, I get one right.

A study conducted by University of Connecticut psychology professor found the anti-depressant drugs (Prozac, Paxil, etc.) work only marginally better than a placebo in treating depression. The drugs, designed to correct chemical imbalances in the brain, did have a high number of successes in treating those who took it, but the number was almost equal to those who took the placebo.

While the difference was statistically significant, the narrow margin has caused many to wonder of these miracle drugs, now used to treat everything from PMS to general anxiety, are really that effective at all, something that should have been asked years ago.

You see, as a society we've begun doping ourselves to cure our blues without pondering if it was the right approach. After all, the pill is the scientific method of curing everything and that blind faith in physical medicine caused us to overlook one critical fact, that these drugs were designed to treat people with a chemical imbalance in the brain while most people with depression have an imbalance in their lives.

While some people are indeed depressed due to biological factors, I'd venture that the number is much lower than most would have you believe. Simply put, most people who are depressed are depressed for a damn good reason and giving them a pill to fix a chemical imbalance that isn't there will do nothing but bring on nasty side effects.

But this hasn't stopped psychiatrists across the world from having a blind faith in the abilities of these drugs. If you go into a psychiatrist office today with a case of depression, most likely, one of the first things he/she will do is give you a prescription, regardless of your reasons for being there. It doesn't matter if you lost your job, your mother died or if you're getting beat up everyday at school, Prozac is the miracle solution and if that doesn't work try Zoloft or Paxil, one of them has to work.

But the fact is, they don't. All they do in most cases is turn smart, intelligent people into zombies. These drugs strip away peoples natural defenses at a time in which they need all of their faculties to survive all the while doing nothing to address the real problem.

Now I don't think psychiatrists are bad people for doing this. The allure of a miracle cure for a disease as complicated and as devastating as depression is very great. But the fact is that there is no miracle cure and even the most gung-ho about the power of these pills has come to realize that they aren't completely effective.

I'm also not about to say that there isn't a place for these pills in modern medicine. They clearly do their job well and in some cases are quite useful. But while I'm no medical expert, they should be used as a last resort, something to try when traditional therapy has failed. They should never be used to treat depression when the cause hasn't been established, even if it's a part of the double-barrel approach (medicine and therapy) that many psychiatrists tout.

Prescribing medicine without good cause, especially medicine that alters the mind, is not just a waste of money, but potentially dangerous. I wouldn't tell anyone to have open-heart surgery just because they have chest pains (it could be gas after all) I'd at least want to check their pulse before tinkering with their insides and such is the case with these drugs.

So I hope that psychiatrists take this study to heart. The effectiveness of these pills have for a long time been in serious doubt and this study only furthers it. There are so many variables at play when it comes to depression and without addressing the right one or the right combination thereof, you're never going to solve anything. If doctors continue blindly prescribing these pills, they'll find themselves doing more harm than good for a majority of patients and many of those lost souls, already suffering from a terrible disease, can't afford to take another hit.

It's time for us as a society to take another look at the way we use the pills and think long and hard about what we hope to accomplish with them. We need to remember that one man's salvation is another's damnation and that without carefully considering what we're doing, we could be condemning those who need help to a fate far worse than the one they started with.

It's a brutal truth, but one we need to accept.

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27 Responses to Why Anti-depressants Don't Work

  1. rosa says:

    have you ever been on anti deprssants?

  2. Ka says:

    I was put on anti-depressants (Prozac, Paxil) for migraines as a teenager (I had a head injury- they saw me in black and sniffling a little at the pain, and mis"diagnosed" me with depression). At this time, barely any studies had been done on adults- these were new drugs. And no or almost no studies had been done on teenagers or children. But they were, and are, being prescribed like candy (or Ritalin, or Viagra). Well, it turns out these fine drugs, in addition to turning people into zombies, in addition to their side effects, in addition to -not working-, permanently alter brain chemistry, even after they've been halted. Don't have the source handy but it should be web-findable, I'm sure.

  3. Lycosidae says:

    Ok.. where to begin, eh? I am currently being recommended to start the drug "Lexapro" which is basically Paxil for teens because Paxil actually raised the suicide rates among adolescents. My mother believes me to be a "depressed suicidal freak with gothic tendencies" and decided to take me to a psychologist, where he, after one session, confirmed her suspicions incorrectly. So he prescribed me some "happy pills" known as Lexapro. I have refused to be on this "inhibitor of my behavior." Only one thing in your article do I only half agree with. An unbalance in your life tends to cause stress, therefore making your brain release a chemical called seratonin and when these levels get low, it has been known to be a cause of depression. So, by proxy, an unbalance in your life is an unbalance in your brain. I believe that prescription anti-depressants should only be used in serious cases and even then as a last resort. Sometimes just talking problems out is a good way to rid yourself of them.

  4. Sadien says:

    My own best friend/cousin is taking Zoloft and gets too many milligrams for her own good. She tried offering me some to try for free since I am depressed a lot, but I turned them down. I have seen what they have done to her since she started taking them. She no longer has a normal sleeping schedule, never eats, has mood swings off and on even when it's not that time of the month so to speak, and just a few tiny pills have changed her kompletely from a friend to a zombie in just a few weeks. If I ever get prescribed pills I will throw away the slip.

  5. Scheherazade says:

    It actually depends on the type of drug you are taking. For instance, I am taking Zoloft for a mental illness. It hasn't turned me into a walking zombie nor has it made any person I know (who is taking anti-depressents)a zombie. It is up to doctors and those around them to properly monitor a person when they commence any drug treatment. It is also good to realize that sometimes these drugs do work and can have a good impact on a person's life.

  6. R. Janis says:

    Children are being prescribed anti depressants like candy. In Ontario they are prescribed in order for children to comply to Special Education Programs Treatment Plans. A child that suffers Social Anxiety, who is intelligent, and functions quite well in a small environment, is fed anti depressants in order for them to cope in large classrooms because of lack of space.

    When my child was removed off Paxil because of side-effects, they failed to warn me of the horrible withdrawal she would experience.

    For those who say "the pill helps me", I hope after a few months that the side-effects do not kick in as they did with my daughter, because the withdrawal you will go through coming off these drugs are hell!

    I wrote a book on my daughters experience, I wish to inform parents of the effects of these medications.

  7. Lady Ravana says:

    Oh boy, does this bring back memories. I went to a pschiatrist for about two years and it seemed like every other visit, she would tack on another pill. I wasn't comfortable taking them because it seemed like too much of a quick fix but I did so anyways, and they didn't work so well. In fact, I think it, in some ways, made my depression worse. In fact, one of them caused insomia(That was some kind of "Pep pill" as I called it and suffice it to say, it worked a little too well; I could go for hours without sleeping a wink and that's not healthy)Anti-Depressant pills disgust me for many of the reasons you listed, but as you've said, contrary to what so many pschiatrists believe, they can work. They just don't work for everybody.

  8. Megan says:

    i was in a hospital for teenagers with depression. there was a group of about 6 of us who were all diagnosed for depression and suicidal thoughts. after only a couple of hours in the hopital they were already trying to prescribe a bunch of different anti depressants for me. a friend of mine was on her third kind. other ones had failed so they kept trying different ones. none were working but they just kept sticking her on them. when are people gonna realize that all these anti depressants are not the answer?

  9. Mad dog says:

    This is just one study of many. Follow the dollars and you'll find the bias.

  10. Tears of Ashes says:

    Well, my theory is, they kind of work. Haha! I'm 16 and I have depression. I used to go to a psychologist, but he didn't help, so i ended up going to a counselor that could prescribe drugs for me. So she did so and I now take Lexapro. Anywho I kept going to her and she and I would talk to about an hour or so. After about a few months, I began to become more confident in myself and a lot less depressed. So…was it the pills, the talk, or both? I believe it was both. Nice discussion!

  11. Hells_Grace says:

    I'm only 15 years old, and my oppion on anti-D is it doesn't work it only makes ppl violent. My best friend was put on to AD and after a few weeks she became really angry/pisses off etc. she used to yell at me for the sillest thing. I asked her to stop takin them, she did and shes ok again now ^_^, i think you dont need AD to make things better you just need someone to be there for you like I was for my friend and she is for me now whilst i suffer.

  12. Chantae says:

    Wow, this is a damn good essay, and 100% true!!! when I went to the doctor for something simple and they tried to tell me I was depressed…I guess it is a simple fix.

  13. Ann says:

    If you have taken anti-depressants to no effect, it is possible that you have what is sometimes called atypical bi-polar disorder. It is much more difficult to diagnose than regular bi-polar disorder, as the symptoms are fairly mild. Most people just think they are depressed, as the manic symptoms are sometimes more mild and easy to miss.
    However, it is also possible that your depression is caused by environmental factors, and not a chemical imbalance at all. In this case, I would recommend a psychotherapist, and possibly some lifestyle modifications.
    If you are really having difficulty functioning on a day to day basis due to depression, I highly recommend that you find a good psychopharmacologist. This is a specialty of psychiatry dealing mostly with treatment-resistant depression.
    As far as your comment that "there are so many variables at play when it comes to depression and without addressing the right one or the right combination thereof, you're never going to solve anything," I absolutely completely agree. The job of your doctor is to determine what these variables are, and then to address them. If you really think that your doctor is "blindly prescribing" medication to you, I would highly suggest finding a new doctor, and possible reporting your old doctor to an ethics committee.
    There ARE treatments for depression that work. The problem is determining what sort of depression you have, and what you would best respond to. Everyone's body chemistry is different, and not all anti-depressants are created equal. If you have not responded to the first medication you tried, that does not by ANY means that medication can't help. Just not that one.
    Don't give up hope. If you need more help, try the National Institute of Mental Health (google it) They can help with everything from finding a support group to finding a good doctor in your area, even if you are financially struggling.

  14. Bloodstained Snow says:

    I'm 13, and I'm on anti-depressants. I'm currently on the lowest dose (10mg) of Lexapro. I am depressed, but I can't figure out whether its biological or environmental. Quite frankly, I agree with this column. I have not felt any better. If anything, I feel worse! I have been feeling more and more suicidal, and its just, you know, not right. I don't know, but it's messed up. I agree wholeheartedly!
    Bloodstained Snow

  15. Darcy says:

    I have been on many anti depressants I have lived all my life depressed, but in the last year this has gotton worst,tonight Iam going thourgh the cant think night. you know many things going on in your head at once, I have not been able to find a therpist and some nights I feel crazy.

  16. Forsaken Angel says:

    Anti depressents dont work. Ive been on them before and off them because of the effects they had on me the 'zombie' effect. I would never take them again i now use herbal ones to help if i really need it but how would people of coped before these medical advances. Truth is they just dealt with it and so will i because i have realised i dont need chemicals because im better and stronger than the depression.

  17. Sarah says:

    I've been on Zoloft for the past 5 weeks. I haven't had major lows. I think I'm more stable and I don't react as badly as before. I think it might be doing its job, though I'll have to wait longer and see. The whole concept of the placebo effect interests me. That people can make themselves better. It's like the undiscovered realms of the brain. At least in the Western societies.

  18. pray your life was just a dream says:

    im …. and ive found that the only anit depressant that works is music…..problem solved, now writhe in the fucked hell that your mind blankets your heart with.

  19. Alias DUR>>>>> says:

    I was on welbutrin then i went off (without pysch's knowledge, and i actually became less depressed, Im depressed like you suggested not because of a chemical imbalance but my own problems that i have to work out, although i have no desire to do so. previously i was on another antidepressent that made me feel like killing myself and that sucked. Feel horrible on the pill, Feel horrible off of it, so whats the difference?

  20. kaymax says:

    The causes of depression can be environmental
    or genetic or both. If you feel you cant control your depression without meds, sorry to say, its better to be a zombie than to suffer.

  21. Niki says:

    I've had two serious battles with depression, and both encounters were because of my losing someone I was close to. I definitely, 100% agree that more often than not the cause of one's depression is based on a solid problem in their life as opposed to a "chemical imbalance". As a last resort, I began taking Zoloft to help deal with every awful feeling I was feeling. I took the pill for three days & I would NEVER take any anti-depressant again. I experienced side effects the second I swallowed that pill. I had a burst of energy followed by sleepiness but not being able to sleep, excessive night sweating, nausea, dizziness & irritibility. That's supposed to make me happier? Riiiiight. I feel so strongly about people NOT using a pill to cover up an unresolved issue. Thank you for writing this paper.

  22. DaniMarie says:

    I agree with the blindly perscribing antidepressants . My best friend is taking them because she gets " depressed " about homework . She also takes ADHD medicine but her mom is a shrink . I really agree with the concept that its a quick fix and think that sometimes parents will kinda influence kids to think they are depressed so that the parents don't have to talk things out or help with homework as seems to be my bestfriend's case .

  23. Tari Faye says:

    Doesn't this sound familiar to me… I had horrible mood swings. Most of them were a really deep depression that took me, at LEAST, six months to get out of it. And my bi-polar isn't even as bad as my dad's! The only thing, I believe, that kept me alive was the fact that I see suicide as a sin. I took two different mediactions AT THE SAME TIME and many of my friends tell me that I wasn't the same when I was on them. I was indeed like a zombie. I felt like the creative person in my mind had been lost to oblivion. When on those pills, I couldn't draw, write, barely think like I used to, and all my inspiration was gone.
    I did and still do have a bi-polar disorder, but I've learned to solve things in my life, instead of taking a 'quick-fix'. And I'm glad to read that someone feels the same way as I do…

  24. Jeni says:

    I'm an adult with Attention 'deficite'.. and when I'm overwhelmed I get depressed. I find it hard to find a dr. who actually understands women with ADD.. When I was really depressed and suspected ADD a male docter decided I was really just bi-polar- and put me on Wellbutrin… It made me angry all the time.. so I stopped taking it. I'm intellegent and normal for the most part.. and dr.s seem to just brush me off because I'm not hyper.. finally when I went for a regular checkup with my regular physician.. and just started bawling when she asked how things are going.. she put me on generic prozac- fluoxetine.. that helped me alot! for awhile.. then I started trying my kids add meds.. and wow. I could actually get things done at work.. not always 'wandering off' when I have repetative stuff to do. after a 2 yrs on fluoxitine.. i took myself off.. now I'm depressed again.. just want to go live in a place far away from the world.. wverwhelmed.. supposed to start on a different anti-depressant- citalopram (generic clexa).. to broke right now to go buy it.. I had been trying holistic- natural stuff.. but its not working. plus I'm pretty sure my hormonal thing really messes with my mood- before and during my period Im always way down.. So- I think the RIGHT mix of chemicals can help- and the wrong ones can be horrible.

  25. michelle says:


  26. ME says:

    i tried prozac
    never really did anything for me

  27. carissa says:

    i understand what you mean. im finging my slef very depressed and i have very bad mood swings.ive been to my dr twice on three diffriet meds they all made me lifeless like a zombie i see im not the onley one …..they also made me irritable like the slighest thik would set me off..so i dont think anti depressnts work i agree wiht this artical

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