This article is copyrighted by Jeffrey Dach MD, 2013
Republished with permission from JeffreyDachMD.com
A study just published in JAMA Jan 5, reported that SSRI antidepressants are no better than placebo for most cases of depression. The authors reviewed 30 years of data and concluded that "the benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo may be minimal or nonexistent in patients with mild or moderate symptoms".
Of course, this is old news, and reminds me of the famous scene in 1942 film, Casablanca, where Captain Louis Renault declares, " I am Shocked, Shocked ... to find gambling here....Here is your winnings... Oh thank you."
Better than Placebo for Severe Depression
I should add that the study found antidepressants work better than placebo for severe depression. This is not surprising, since virtually any psycho-stimulant can be found useful for the most the severely depressed patient.
Is Depression Really a Medical Disease?
Medically speaking, the term "Depression" is a vague constellation of feelings and symptoms scored by a questionnaire called the Hamilton Depression Score.
How to Score Depression as Mild, Moderate or Severe? Online Tools
There are a number of handy on-line tools for taking the Hamilton Depression Score Questionnaire. Here is one of them: For the short 17-item version of the Hamilton questionnaire, scores can range from 0 to 54. Hamilton scores between 0 and 6 are normal. Scores between 7 and 17 indicate mild depression, scores between 18 and 24 indicate moderate depression, and scores over 24 indicate severe depression. According to the Jan 5 JAMA study, if your Hamilton score is less than 24, then placebo is just as effective as antidepressant drugs. That means they work about the same as a sugar pill.
Here are the Hamilton Depression Score Questions (short version):
Mood (Are you sad, hopeless, helpless, worthless?)
Feeling of Guilt (Do you have feelings of guilt, or self reproach?)
Do you have Suicide ideas, gestures or attempts?
INSOMNIA (Do you have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep?)
WORK AND ACTIVITIES (Do you have thoughts and feelings of fatigue or weakness related to activities, or decreased or Stopped activities or working because of present illness?)
Do you have Slowness of thought and speech; Do you have difficulty concentrating; slow movements)?
AGITATION (Do you have Fidgeting, Playing with hands, hair, etc, Moving about, can't sit still. Hand wringing, nail biting, hair-pulling, biting of lips etc)?
ANXIETY (Do you have tension and irritability, Worrying, Apprehension, Fears expressed)?
ANXIETY: SOMATIC (Do you have dry mouth, wind, indigestion, diarrhea, cramps, belching. - Cardio-vascular : palpitations, headaches. hyperventilation, sighing. Urinary frequency - Sweating)?
SOMATIC SYMPTOMS: GASTROINTESTINAL Do you have Loss of appetite, require laxatives or medication for bowels, or medication for gastro-intestinal symptoms?
SOMATIC SYMPTOMS: GENERAL - Do you have Heaviness in limbs, back or head? Backaches, headache, muscle aches. Loss of energy and fatigability?
GENITAL SYMPTOMS -Do you have loss of libido, menstrual disturbances?
HYPOCHONDRIASIS - Do you have preoccupation with your health.?
LOSS OF WEIGHT -Do you have weight loss from depression.?
INSIGHT - Acknowledges or denies being depressed. ?
Overlapping Symptoms- Is it Really Depression ?
As is obvious, many of these feelings or symptoms are somewhat subjective and rather vague, so depression scoring is not an exact science and can be manipulated according to the agenda of the research or questioner. As you can see, many of these Hamilton symptoms overlap with real medical diseases. For example patients with inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease would score positive for the GI symptoms even though they may not be clinically "depressed". Somatic symptoms of fatigue and muscle pain may overlap with fibromyalgia and hypothyroid symptoms. Slowness of thought and speech could overlap with a low thyroid condition or a neurological disorder such as B12 deficiency. Patients in chronic severe pain contemplating suicide may not necessarily indicate clinical "depression". Obviously, these patients need pain relief rather than an SSRI antidepressant.
Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms Overlap with Many of the Hamilton Symptoms
Many women with hormonal imbalance related to pre-menopause or post menopausal transitions will have mood disorders and symptoms which overlap with many of the symptoms on the Hamilton Depression Score.
For example, the term Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is commonly treated with SSRI antidepressants by mainstream primary care and OB/Gyne Docs. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a manufactured term made up by the drug companies to sell SSRI drugs and in reality, attempts to redefine the original term, PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
With the Jan 5, 2010 JAMA article, we now have evidence that Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and other common forms of hormonal imbalance are poorly served by SSRI antidepressants. Using SSRI's is simply the wrong way. The benefit of SSRI antidepressants for this group is the same as the benefit from placebo. Rather, this group of women should be properly evaluated, and then treated with bioidentical hormones to address their underlying problem. We have noted considerable success using cyclic natural progesterone in this group of women with PMS and other hormonal imbalances. In my opinion, natural progesterone is a far better form of treatment with none of the adverse side effects associated with SSRI antidepressants.
Adverse Side Effects of Antidepressants - Placebos Have NONE
When placebo and SSRI antidepressants are compared and found equally effective, the next question relates to adverse side effects. By definition, placebos have no adverse side effects. However, this is not true for antidepressants which have the following adverse effects: Sexual dysfunction, weight gain and sleep disturbance are the most troubling adverse effects of SSRI anti-depressant therapy. The most common side effects associated with SSRI antidepressants are nausea, headache, nervousness, insomnia and sexual dysfunction. More side effects are listed here.
SSRIs and Suicide Risk
Another troubling adverse effect of SSRI antidepressants is increased suicide first reported by Teicher in 1990. According to David Healy (Let then Eat Prozac), the original clinical trial data was manipulated by moving the suicide cases from the treatment arm over to the placebo arm of the study. This manipulated data was then submitted to the FDA who conveniently looked the other way. This disturbing information was presented at a Cornell University Mar 25, 2009 talk by David Healy which can be seen here on You Tube.
The Army and Military Suicide from SSRIs Antidepressant Use
Another striking finding is the unprecedented increased suicide rate in the military with widespread use of SSRI's and other psycho active drugs in the Army. Again this is a rather sad commentary, and another nail in the coffin for SSRI drugs as being more harmful than helpful.
This article was originally published on Drdach.com
Articles with Related Interest:
SSRI Drugs and Overcome Depression Naturally by Jeffrey Dach MD
Paxil, Prozac and SSRI Induced Suicide by Jeffrey Dach MD
Protect Your Family from Bad Drugs by Jeffrey Dach MD