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Why Antidepressants Dont Work for Treating Depression


ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɹoıuǝs
Why Antidepressants Don’t Work for Treating Depression

Here’s some depressing recent medical news: Antidepressants don’t work.

What’s even more depressing?

The pharmaceutical industry and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have deliberately deceived us into believing that they DO work.

As a physician, this is frightening to me. Depression is among the most common problems seen in primary-care medicine and soon will be the second leading cause of disability in this country.

The study I’m talking about was published in a recent issue of “The New England Journal of Medicine.”

It found that drug companies selectively publish studies on antidepressants. They have published nearly all the studies that show benefit -- but almost none of the studies that show these drugs are ineffective. (1)

That warps our view of antidepressants, leading us to think that they do work. And it has fueled the tremendous growth in the use of psychiatric medications, which are now the second leading class of drugs sold, after cholesterol-lowering drugs.

And it’s even worse than it sounds, because the positive studies hardly showed benefit in the first place.

For example, 40 percent of people taking a placebo (sugar pill) got better, while only 60 percent taking the actual drug had improvement in their symptoms. Looking at it another way, 80 percent of people get better with just a placebo.

That leaves us with a big problem -- millions of depressed people with no effective treatments.

Let’s take a closer look at depression.

“Depression” is simply a label we give to people who have a depressed mood most of the time, have lost interest or pleasure in most activities, are fatigued, can’t sleep, have no interest in sex, feel hopeless and helpless, can’t think clearly, or can’t make decisions.

But that label tells us NOTHING about the cause of those symptoms.

In fact, there are dozens of causes of depression -- each one needing a different approach to treatment.

Depression is not one-size-fits-all.

But it’s very common.

Women have a 10 to 25 percent risk and men a 5 to 12 percent risk of developing severe major depression in their lifetime. (2)

One in ten Americans takes an antidepressant. The use of these drugs has tripled in the last decade, according to a report by the federal government. In 2006, spending on antidepressants soared by 130 percent.

But just because antidepressants are popular doesn’t mean they’re helpful.

Unfortunately, as we now see from this report in “The New England Journal of Medicine,” they don’t work and have significant side effects.

Most patients taking antidepressants either don’t respond or have only partial response.

In fact, success is considered just a 50 percent improvement in half of depressive symptoms. And this minimal result is achieved in less than half the patients taking antidepressants.

That’s a pretty dismal record. It’s only made worse by the fact that 86 percent of people taking antidepressants have one or more side effects, including sexual dysfunction, fatigue, insomnia, loss of mental abilities, nausea, and weight gain.

No wonder half the people who try antidepressants quit after 4 months.

Now I want to talk to you about the reasons why doctors and patients have been deceived by the “antidepressant hoax.”

Despite what we have been brainwashed to believe, depression is not a Prozac deficiency!

Drug companies are not forced to publish all the results of their studies. They only publish those they want to.

The team of researchers that reported their findings in “The New England Journal of Medicine” took a critical look at all the studies done on antidepressants, both published and unpublished.

They dug up some serious dirt.

The unpublished studies were not easy to find. The researchers had to search the FDA databases, call researchers, and hunt down hidden data under the Freedom of Information Act.

What they found was stunning.

After looking at 74 studies involving 12 drugs and over 12,000 people, they discovered that 37 of 38 trials with positive results were published, while only 14 of 36 negative studies were published.

And those that showed negative results were in the words of the researchers, “published in a way that conveyed a positive outcome.”

That means the results were twisted to imply the drugs worked when they didn’t.

This isn’t just a problem with antidepressants. It’s a problem with scientific research. Some drug companies even pay or threaten scientists to not publish negative results on their drugs.

So much for “evidence-based” medicine!

Most of the time, we only have the evidence that the drug companies want us to have. Both doctors and patients are deceived into putting billions of dollars into drug companies’ pockets, while leaving millions with the same health problems but less money.

The scientific trust is broken. What can we do?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.

But I do think Functional Medicine, on which my approach of UltraWellness is based, provides a more intelligent way of understanding the research.

Rather than using drugs to suppress symptoms, Functional Medicine helps us find the true causes of problems, including depression.

I see this in so many of the patients I have treated over the years. Just as the same things that make us sick also make us fat, the same things that make us sick also make us depressed.

Fix the causes of sickness -- and the depression takes care of itself.

Just look at these few cases:

A 23-year-old had been anxious and depressed most of her life and spent her childhood and adolescence on various cocktails of antidepressants.

Turns out, she suffered from food allergies that made her depressed. Food allergies cause inflammation, and studies now show inflammation in the brains of depressed people.

In fact, researchers are studying powerful anti-inflammatory drugs used in autoimmune disease such as Enbrel for the treatment of depression.

So after she eliminated her IgG or delayed food allergies, her depression went away, she got off her medication -- and she lost 30 pounds as a side effect!

Here’s another.

A 37-year-old executive woman struggled for more than a decade with treatment-resistant depression (meaning that drugs didn’t work), fatigue, and a 40-pound weight gain.

We found she had very high levels of mercury. Getting the mercury out of her body left her happy, thin, and full of energy.

A 49-year-old man with severe lifelong depression had been on a cocktail of antidepressants and psychiatric medication for years but still lived under a dark cloud every day, without relief.

We found he had severe deficiencies of vitamin B12, B6, and folate. After we gave him back those essential brain nutrients, he called me to thank me. Last year was the first year he could remember feeling happy and free of depression.

These are just a few of the dozens of things that can cause depression.

The roots of depression are found in the 7 keys to UltraWelless and the 7 fundamental underlying imbalances that trigger the body to malfunction.

As we now see, taking antidepressants is not the answer to our looming mental health epidemic.

In the meantime, here are a few things that account for a lot of depression -- and how to fix them.

  1. Try an anti-inflammatory elimination diet that gets rid of common food allergens (see “The UltraSimple Diet”)
  2. Check for hypothyroidism
  3. Treat vitamin D deficiency with at least 2,000 to 5,000 U a day of vitamin D3
  4. Take omega-3 fats in the form of 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams (mg) a day of purified fish oil. Your brain is made of up this fat.
  5. Take adequate B12 (1,000 micrograms, or mcg, a day), B6 (25 mg) and folic acid (800 mcg). These vitamins are critical for metabolizing homocysteine which can play a factor in depression.
  6. Get checked for mercury
  7. Exercise vigorously five times a week for 30 minutes. This increases levels of BDNF, a natural antidepressant in your brain.

(1) Turner EH et al. 2007. Selective publication of antidepressant trials and its influence on apparent efficacy. New England Journal of Medicine. 358: 252-260.

(2) Eaton WW, Kalaydjian A, Scharfstein DO, Mezuk B, Ding Y. 2007. Prevalence and incidence of depressive disorder: the Baltimore ECA follow-up, 1981-2004. Acta Psychiatr Scand.116(3):182-188.



With all respect, same as the medical/pharma industry has created this myth of "antidepressants work", the alternative medicine industry has created another one which, from my experience, is even worse.

My life was hard enough when I was on antidepressants for years and they never helped but only caused awful side effects (attributed to my own exaggerated response and hypochondria...), but when I decided to stop all pills and started reading the internet and visiting alternative therapists it was even worse.

Maybe looking for every kind of allergy or trying suppleemnts of Vit D or B12 or B6 or C or magnesium or omega-3 or Sam-e or 5-HTP or St.John's Wort or Inositol or Theanine or Homeopathy or the thousand of different "natural" or "no-side-effects" antidepressants are as harmful as the chemical pharmaceutical ones, but it is also a very expensive and draining process. I mean, me and many like me spend years and years trying and trying and trying and trying things and spending and spending and spending.

Same as I think it is necessary to tell openly that antidepressants don't work for most people, it is also necessary to stop the "alternative" industry which is also very costly and liar. I have read lots and lots of studies on all those "natural" treatments and I think that same as with the reviews of the antidepressants, they are very manipulated. The fact is that after 30 years suffering all this mess I have never met anyone recovered by taking any alternative approach or natural treatment or supplement. Not even one case. That includes for instance mercury detox and amalgams removal, totally non-allergenic or candida diet, etc, etc, etc. All the internet classics.

Please stop presenting all of these as alternatives to antidepressants and shrinks. Or say clearly that the percentage of success is so small that it can perfectly be placebo effect too. For one case of "recovery" there are thousands of failed ones.


Senior Member
New England
Thanks, MNC. You gave balance to this thread. I appreciated the information which JPV posted, minus the promotion for Mark Hyman, M.D., which I am not sure is okay in terms of Forum rules. Posters aren't supposed to be "selling" here, is my understanding.



ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɹoıuǝs
Thanks, MNC. You gave balance to this thread. I appreciated the information which JPV posted, minus the promotion for Mark Hyman, M.D., which I am not sure is okay in terms of Forum rules. Posters aren't supposed to be "selling" here, is my understanding.


I took the promotional section out of the article. I initially copied it verbatim without really paying attention to that part.


ɹǝqɯǝɯ ɹoıuǝs
No offence to you JPV but there are lots of pathways where brain chemistry can go wrong. So to say that all anti-depressants don't work is ridiculous. Anyone who says so should be put on some cocaine and tell us if it does not work either, since this is a very short living but potent anti-depressant as well...

My beef is with Big Pharma that has no problem selling largely ineffective drugs, yet hypocritically has it's cronies at the FDA constantly harassing vitamin/supplement manufactures for making any health benefit claims...

Excerpt from: BBC News - Drugs 'don't work on many people'
A senior executive at Europe's largest drug maker has admitted most prescription medicines don't work for most people, it is reported.

Allen Roses, of GlaxoSmithKline, is quoted in a national newspaper as saying more than 90% of drugs only work in 30-50% of people.

He said: "Drugs on the market work, but they don't work in everybody."

Mr Roses quoted research published three years ago by Brian Spear, an expert in medical diagnostics, which found that different drugs had vastly different success rates in treating patients.

Most drugs had an efficacy rate of 50% or lower.

Excerpt from: The Houston Chronicle - Doctors say cough syrup not worth cash

Recent studies have suggested that cough syrup — usually containing the cough suppressant dextromethorphan and the expectorant guaifenesin — works no better than sugar water.

A small Pennsylvania study of 100 children in 2004 and a British analysis of adult studies in 2002 reached the same conclusion.


Ye, I have my problems with big pharma too. In my eyes there is not enough competition in the medical field. Small companies are not allowed into the market, either the FDA blocks them (Ampligen) or they get swallowed by bigger companies. During the last year it semed to be much better to improve existing drugs and sell them for triple the price than to invent new drugs.


My beef is with Big Pharma that has no problem selling largely ineffective drugs, yet hypocritically has it's cronies at the FDA constantly harassing vitamin/supplement manufactures for making any health benefit claims...

It is not Big Pharma to blame. It is the corrupt politicians, health responsibles and doctors the ones that make it happen. Pharma companies are like any other industry, they are there for the money and cheat as much as they can. We pay politicians and health professionals to protect us, we don't pay them to be there doing nothing but getting rich from bribery.

So many doctors say they are against this system where they only learn about meds from their pharma salesmen. And they know they may hurt many patients, but cowardly look somewhere else and just prescribe what they are "motivated" to prescribe. I still have to see doctors in any country protesting against the system. They may go on strike for better salaries or working conditions, but never to do it for something really honest and human such as attacking the corrupted system and defending the ethics and public health.

Still, antidepressants work little and hurt a lot, but have some percentage of positive results. Alternative medicine, being so expensive, has much smaller results if any, so I don't know what side is worse.

My opinion; patients should be warned by the doctors that those antidepressants (or any medication) may be addictive, perhaps for life, that may cause horrible side effects and that the percentage of success is small. As long as the patient knows the truth and takes a well informed decision it is enough. Doctors should be obliged to say this just as policemen have to to tell their rights to the ones under arrest.

And the supplements sellers and alternative therapists should simply be obliged to warn that all of that is a scam but may have some placebo effect.


Senior Member
New England
My opinion; patients should be warned by the doctors that those antidepressants (or any medication) may be addictive, perhaps for life, that may cause horrible side effects and that the percentage of success is small. As long as the patient knows the truth and takes a well informed decision it is enough. Doctors should be obliged to say this just as policemen have to to tell their rights to the ones under arrest.

I think this is great corrective information, or opinion, MNC, a powerful statement. Also vis a vis the alternative stuff. If we had a Consumer Reports on the efficacy of all the drugs, supplements, health treatments and diets, we'd wise up. As for myself, having tried all kinds of stuff with ME/CFS, standard and alternative, I can tell you I can say that very little of it has worked. Not about to jump on the latest bandwagon or follow the latest craze. Right now I am waiting on a standardized test for XMRV; then I will take it from there.

Thanks for this thread!

I personally know two people who have been helped by antidepressants. One hasn't been able to get off them, but he hasn't tried to kill himself lately. Another weaned herself off Prozac with the help of her doctor. (The latter friend would totally agree with the original poster about antidepressants ... they changed her in ways she didn't like, and she believes people don't really need them. All I know is that she was in a very bad place for a very long time, and they rather quickly kicked her out of that deep well of badness.)

Now, "I personally know two people" is not data. Furthermore, if it turns out friend #1 can stop taking them in favor of a lot of B12, he'll be quite happy to do that. But I've seen almost nothing but anecdotal evidence for supplements. When I look at the labels, I often see a disclaimer saying that there's nothing backing up their claims.
Another point I forgot to mention before hitting the post button ...

I find it hard to believe that 10 percent of the entire population are on antidepressants, but many of you have firsthand experience of doctors pushing them on you when depression isn't your problem. THAT needs to be addressed even if antidepressants do work for the much narrower cohort they're supposed to work for.


Senior Member
Melbourne, Australia
I've seen both sides of the story.

I was put on anti-depressants in 1998 after a breakdown, which wasn't the correct treatment for me at that time. I've also had to take prescription drugs at various times over the last 20 years, some correctly prescribed & effective, & some with disastrous side-effects.

Having also had some training in herbal medicine, aromatherapy & massage (& having studied alternative therapies for over 25 years) gives me the other side of the coin.

I believe many people are being prescribed anti-depressants (like I was) when they don't have clinical depression. I abhor the one size fits all approach - take a pill. The first psychiatrist I was sent to was a big joke - I still laugh at the memory of those silly consultations I had to attend (as it was a work related breakdown). Many years later, the 2nd psychiatrist I was sent to, had the skill to diagnose my problem as purely, bottled up anger - not clinical depression.

I also believe there are a lot of charletons in the alternative therapies industry. Some people do a small course & think they can practice that therapy. One of the most important things I learned from my courses is that people can have adverse effects from the simplest plant medicine - plant medicine & synthetic prescription drugs can both, fail & have serious allergic responses.

It takes a highly skilled healer (orthodox western trained physician OR alternative therapist) to diagnose the mental, spiritual or physical disorder & prescribe the correct treatment.

You can study for all your life & not be skilled in the healing arts. Or you can study for a short time & develop your natural healing skill for good use all your life.

True healers have not only education & experience, but the intuitive understanding of healing.

I consider my current GP a great healer, because he is not only a good diagnostician, but is open to alternative healing practices.

He is also compassionate & a great listener. Listening & interpreting your health story is becoming a lost art.