Do antidepressants do more harm than good?

Link to study (Primum non nocere: an evolutionary analysis of whether antidepressants do more harm than good).

I have seen a good deal of criticism leveled at this paper, but its reasoning seems sound to me and worth considering.

From the paper: “Ultimately, we come down on the side that the benefits of antidepressants are generally outweighed by their costs, though there may be specific populations where their use is warranted.” (Emphasis mine)

Most of the criticisms I have read of this paper are based on anecdotes (they worked for me) or attacking the journal that published the paper or that they didn’t do any studies of their own. Note that the authors’ argument is not based on a particular experiment but rather on the “…principle of evolutionary medicine that the disruption of evolved adaptations will degrade biological functioning.” Note also that their conclusions are qualified: “Because serotonin regulates many adaptive processes, antidepressants could have many adverse health effects.” And: “We conclude that altered informed consent practices and greater caution in the prescription of antidepressants are warranted.”

I tend to agree with this conclusion and though I have seen anti-depressants do much good, it is almost certainly true that they are over prescribed and very unlikely that they do no harm at all. Thus, the conclusion “…that altered informed consent practices and greater caution in the prescription of antidepressants are warranted” seems well-justified, even if some of the reasoning leading to that conclusion may prove to be wrong.

For Buddhists, there are many other practices to try before resorting to anti-depressants. For FIML practitioners, we would hope that in many cases partners will realize that depression is a symptom of living in a crazy world.

One comment on “Do antidepressants do more harm than good?

  1. I love what you guys tend to be up too. Such clever work and reporting! Keep up the great works guys I’ve included you guys to our blogroll.

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