October 20, 2014

The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth

pin it button The Emperors New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth

The Emperors New Drugs Book cover The Emperors New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth

The Emperor’s New Drugs
Exploding the Antidepressant Myth


by Irving Kirsch Ph.D.

Like most people, I used to think that antidepressants worked. As a clinical psychologist, I referred depressed psychotherapy clients to psychiatric colleagues for the prescription of medication, believing that it might help. Sometimes the antidepressant seemed to work; sometimes it did not. When it did work, I assumed it was the active ingredient in the antidepressant that was helping my clients cope with their psychological condition. According to drug companies, more than 80 per cent of depressed patients can be treated successfully by antidepressants. Claims like this made these medications one of the most widely prescribed class of prescription drugs in the world, with global sales that make it a $19-billion-a-year industry. Newspaper and magazine articles heralded antidepressants as miracle drugs that had changed the lives of millions of people. Depression, we were told, is an illness – a disease of the brain that can be cured by medication. I was not so sure that depression was really an illness, but I did believe that the drugs worked and that they could be a helpful adjunct to psychotherapy for very severely depressed clients. That is why I referred these clients to psychiatrists who could prescribe antidepressants that the clients could take while continuing in psychotherapy to work on the psychological issues that had made them depressed.

But was it really the drug they were taking that made my clients feel better? Perhaps I should have suspected that the improvement they reported might not have been a drug effect. People obtain considerable benefits from many medications, but they also can experience symptom improvement just by knowing they are being treated. This is called the placebo effect. As a researcher at the University of Connecticut, I had been studying placebo effects for many years. I was well aware of the power of belief to alleviate depression, and I understood that this was an important part of any treatment, be it psychological or pharmacological. But I also believed that antidepressant drugs added something substantial over and beyond the placebo effect. As I wrote in my first book, ‘comparisons of anti-depressive medication with placebo pills indicate that the former has a greater effect . . . the existing data suggest a pharmacologically specific effect of imipramine on depression’. As a researcher, I trusted the data as it had been presented in the published literature. I believed that antidepressants like imipramine were highly effective drugs, and I referred to this as ‘the established superiority of imipramine over placebo treatment’.

The drug companies claimed – and still maintain – that the effectiveness of antidepressants has been proven in published clinical trials showing that the drugs are substantially better than placebos (dummy pills with no active ingredients at all). But the data that Sapirstein and I examined told a very different story. Although many depressed patients improve when given medication, so do many who are given a placebo, and the difference between the drug response and the placebo response is not all that great. What the published studies really indicate is that most of the improvement shown by depressed people when they take antidepressants is due to the placebo effect.

Our finding that most of the effects of antidepressants could be explained as a placebo effect was only the first of a number of surprises that changed my views about antidepressants. Following up on this research, I learned that the published clinical trials we had analysed were not the only studies assessing the effectiveness of antidepressants. I discovered that approximately 40 per cent of the clinical trials conducted had been withheld from publication by the drug companies that had sponsored them. By and large, these were studies that had failed to show a significant benefit from taking the actual drug. When we analysed all of the data – those that had been published and those that had been suppressed – my colleagues and I were led to the inescapable conclusion that antidepressants are little more than active placebos, drugs with very little specific therapeutic benefit, but with serious side effects. I describe these analyses – and the reaction to them – in Chapters 3 and 4.

I remain convinced that antidepressant drugs are not effective treatments and that the idea of depression as a chemical imbalance in the brain is a myth. When I began to write this book, my claim was more modest. I believed that the clinical effectiveness of antidepressants had not been proven for most of the millions of patients to whom they are prescribed, but I also acknowledged that they might be beneficial to at least a subset of depressed patients. During the process of putting all of the data together, those that I had analysed over the years and newer data that have just recently seen the light of day, I realized that the situation was even worse than I thought. The belief that antidepressants can cure depression chemically is simply wrong. In this book I will share with you the process by which I came to this conclusion and the scientific evidence on which it is based.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1 – Listening to Prozac, but Hearing Placebo
  • Chapter 2 – The ‘Dirty Little Secret’
  • Chapter 3 – Countering the Critics
  • Chapter 4 – The Myth of the Chemical Imbalance
  • Chapter 5 – The Placebo Effect and the Power of Belief
  • Chapter 6 – How Placebos Work
  • Chapter 7 – Beyond Antidepressants

Irving Kirsch is Professor of Psychology at the University of Hull in the UK.

The Emperor’s New Drugs
Exploding the Antidepressant Myth
by Irving Kirsch Ph.D.

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Boston Nurses Speak Out Against Mandatory Flu Shots

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Trish Powers, representing Brigham nurses in Boston fired back a comment that The Boston Globe published. It is titled “Brigham nurses know flu vaccine can do harm.”

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The Gardasil vaccine has changed Skylee’s life in so many ways and we do not know how many more symptoms will show up and change her life even more than it has already done. Our whole family has been affected by this vaccine and all of our lives have been turned upside down that terrible day in 2013.

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Why did U.S. government officials fly American aid workers infected with Ebola to the U.S. rather than treating them with experimental drugs at hospitals in Africa?

Why did the U.S. government press the United Nations to adopt a resolution calling for no restrictions on international travel from Liberia and other Ebola-stricken countries?

Why did the Centers for Disease Control, supposedly the world’s leading infection control agency, fail to immediately assist Texas health officials when the first case of Ebola was diagnosed on US soil to guarantee that, at a minimum, the kind of infection control measures used in most nursing homes in America would be carried out?

Why has the Director of the CDC repeatedly stated that the only way a person can transmit Ebola is if they have a fever and said that people cannot get Ebola unless they have direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person – but that under no circumstances is Ebola airborne – when he knows, or should know, those statements could be false?

And why are experimental Ebola vaccines being fast tracked into human trials and promoted as the final solution rather than ramping up testing and production of the experimental ZMapp drug that has already saved the lives of several Ebola infected Americans?

A logical conclusion is that some people in industry, government and the World Health Organization did not want the Ebola outbreak to be confined to several nations in Africa because that would fail to create a lucrative global market for mandated use of fast tracked Ebola vaccines by every one of the seven billion human beings living on this planet.

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Was Ebola created, or did it just accidentally spill over into humans from an animal host such as African fruit bats?

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Is the Ebola virus a local epidemic, a global pandemic, or a hoax? Is life in America as we have known it about to collapse into chaos and martial law, or will we be safe and secure once we take the Ebola vaccine?

Will more people die from the Ebola vaccine than would have died from the disease itself?

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