Do Antidepressants Help in the Long Run?

Almost 7 percent of adults in the United States experience at least one major depressive episode in a given year.

The two common ways of treating major depression are psychotherapy and antidepressant medications.

However, one doctor suggests that in the long run, depressed people are better off if they never take any medication to begin with.

In a letter to the editor of the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Jeffrey R. Vittengl, PhD, professor of psychology at Truman State University in Missouri, said that while the short-term benefits of antidepressants are well established, the longer-term picture is a different story.

Over a nine-year period, Vittengl discovered that among depressed people who got adequate treatment, those who took no medication were doing better than those who took medication.

Conclusions are tough to draw

An expert interviewed by Healthline said that while these findings should not be dismissed out of hand, they should not be considered the final word on the subject either.

“Do I think it’s interesting? Yes, I do,” Dr. John Campo, chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline.

“But what I would say is that I think the conclusions outstrip the data,” he added. “This is already mentioned in the limitations. This isn’t a randomized, controlled study. It’s observational, so we’re not really able to infer causality — all we can say is that there’s an association. There might be a lot of unmeasured factors influencing who received treatment and who didn’t receive treatment. So, the conclusion that this suggests, that medications are toxic, is probably a bit of a stretch. Could that be true? Yeah, it could be, and I do think we need to think about it.”

Campo pointed out that, when it comes to depression, many variables are at play.

These include the severity of depressive episodes and the ways that patients react to different…

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