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It is estimated that nearly 27 million Americans are currently taking anti-depressants. Studies performed to dispute the effectiveness of anti-depressants have caused some controversy and may have you thinking, should I be taking anti-depressants at all?
Anti-depressants are the most frequently prescribed medicines. Nearly 10 percent of all women in the United States are taking anti-depressants, as well as nearly 4 percent of all men. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reviewed a study that suggests that many of the most popular anti-depressants work no better than a placebo to treat the symptoms of depression.


The studies conclude that for people, especially women, with minor symptoms, anti-depressants really don’t work all that well. It is important to discuss options with your doctor, and figure out what alternative method may work best for you.

Researchers have concluded that some forms of therapy such as individual psychotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy can work to treat symptoms of depression as well as an anti-depressant. Additionally, you can make changes in your everyday routine that can help boost your mood, such as implementing an exercise routine. Moderate exercise helps to release endorphins in the body, which can actually make you feel a sense of euphoria and an overall happy feeling. It is important to speak with your doctor to determine the severity of your symptoms before deciding which treatment method may work best for you.

Do Anti-Depressants Really Work?

More than 20 years of research on the effectiveness of anti-depressants suggests that anti-depressants do work, but for only about 75 percent of those who are depressed.  However, the findings of a controversial study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the participants experienced relief of symptoms similarly, whether they were given the anti-depressants or placebo. This bombshell leads to the question: do anti-depressants really work or is it the patient’s belief that they will work that is decreasing symptoms? 

In 1998, Psychology researcher Irving Kirsch reviewed 38 studies performed by manufacturers involving approximately 300 patients who were suffering from depression. Kirsch realized that the patients did improve while taking the drugs, but upon further investigation, determined that the patients given a placebo during the trial improved nearly 75 percent as well as those taking actual anti-depressants. 

The research done by Kirsch and others concludes that a good number of improvement are achieved by the person believing that the drug they take is going to help them rather than the drug actually causing a shift in brain chemistry. Neither Kirsch nor any other researcher is suggesting that people suffering from depression abruptly stop taking their medications, however, the idea is to bring to light the possibility of alternative or complimentary treatments rather than the reliance on drugs alone.

The Dangers of Stopping Anti-Depressants Cold Turkey

In light of research involving the effectiveness of anti-depressants, if you take them you may be tempted to stop. It is not recommended to suddenly stop taking anti-depressants; the withdrawal effects can be severe and dangerous. The severity of withdrawal is usually dependent upon on how long you have been taking the drug and what type of drug you are taking.

Cutting off your medication cold turkey can lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, chills, muscle aches, irritability and anxiety. Some people have reported other symptoms including ringing in the ears, blurry vision, tingling, burning or jolt sensation in various parts of the body and sadness. Additionally, stopping cold turkey can increase your chances for recurring bouts of depression.

It is recommended to wean off anti-depressants over a period of time, doing so can lessen symptoms of withdrawal and decrease the chances of a recurrence of depression symptoms.

It is estimated that nearly 27 million Americans are currently taking anti-depressants. Studies performed to dispute the effectiveness of anti-depressants have caused some controversy and may have you thinking, should I be taking anti-depressants at all? The important thing to remember is that some people do respond well to anti-depressants and others do not. It may take a long time to find the anti-depressant that is right for you.

The decision to take an anti-depressant should not be made lightly. Speak wit your doctor to determine the course of action to best treat your depression symptoms. Often times, cognitive behavior therapy, psychotherapy and exercise can be very effective non-medicinal ways to combat depression. If you are currently taking anti-depressants and have thoughts of suicide, contact emergency medical services immediately.

  • www.everydayhealth.com/depression-specialist/anti-depressants.aspx
  • www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/01/28/the-depressing-news-about-antidepressants.html
  • www.dailystrength.org/health_blogs/dr-orrange/article/how-do-i-get-off-my-antidepressant-cold-turkey-or-slow-wean
  • www.nytimes.com/2004/05/25/health/the-consumer-how-to-stop-depression-medications-very-slowly.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
  • articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-08-28/health/sc-health-0825-antidepressants-20100825_1_antidepressants-lexapro-brain-zaps
  • www.mayoclinic.com/health/antidepressants/HQ01069
  • www.webmd.com/depression/features/truth-about-antidepressants
  • www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/antidepressants.html