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Psychologist Says Antidepressants Are Just Placebos

I will dutifully report on yet another professional’s opinion about the research literature on antidepressants. This time the “antidepressant is just a placebo effect” argument comes from a psychologist.

Irving Kirsch, a professor of psychology at the University of Hull in the U.K., says that antidepressants are nothing more than fancy and expensive placebos. He, of course, does not say this in a vacuum. No, of course not. He’s saying this in promoting his new book, The Emperor’s New Drugs (which, you know, is a “funny” play on the phrase “the emperor’s new clothes”).

Read on for a quick deconstruction of his argument (his argument as presented in an interview online, anyways).

55 Comments to
Psychologist Says Antidepressants Are Just Placebos

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Comments: 1 2
  1. I don’t doubt that placebos have been given to patients from time to time. It may be a method of treatment in some cases. However, I find it incredibly hard to believe that every medication for these cases or studies have been placebos.

  2. I agree with this idea of placebo if not something worse.
    I try not to do any psychotherapy when the patient is «on drugs».
    I ask him to finish the medical treatment and come later to psychotherapy or negotiate with the psysician to drop it 1 or 2 months after the beginig of psychotherapy.
    Mário de Noronha, PhD, DtH.

  3. I agree somewhat. At time I’ve seen VERY LITTLE benefit from SSRIs and some other less evasive psychotropics (think buspar or NDRIs or NRIs). However, MH patients need to given the option for meds. period. I am a psychologist by the way. My thought is that my behavioral treatments are superior to most psychotropics… with this rather large exception (here is where I think PSYCHOLOGY MESSES UP). Put aside, the diagnosis or disorder piece, which may drive treatment, there are just certain patients that do NOT benefit from psychotherapy (CBT, psyhodynamic, supportive, extensional, etc.). These individuals needs meds. One one hand these are the more serve disorders (Bipolar I — [side note: I do not support BP-II dx or its derivatives] and other patients who need meds are the severe psychotic do’s and their derivatives. I will had very high anxiety and extreme insomnia as really/ truly need psychotropics as the start of treatment.

  4. But on top of this, there are just some regular depressed, minor anxiety symptom-ed – patients that also need meds -and- CBT, etc. just isn’t a good option. period. One strength as a psychologist or psychologist(s) have is the assessment/ testing piece of our craft, which helps predict patient outcomes for me. Anyway, I think psychology has failed to assert their knowledge of the a more psychologically orientated model vs. medical model and meet MDs and health care half way on this one — doing this helps predict who is going to get better and respond to treatment and -vs- who is going to get addicted to Benzos, etc. or not response to treatment. Finally, I also believe there is a certain subset (speaking from a psychoanalytic model– even though I am of a behavioral medicine orientation– there is / are a subset of patients much more toward the psychotic/ borderline end of the spectrum — these people have reality testing in tact– but they will never benefit from psychotherapy (even DBT). They need risk management and meds, and may look like promising patients at in-take.

  5. I used Risperdal for some time and that was very bad , terrible , I told to my doctor that my voices are much lover and that I can live hospital just to avoid Risperdal again . I think many people are going to tell the same just to escape Risperdal . Also after using Risperdal people are not coming back but after placebo they are not scared to come back . i would never again take Risperdal.

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