This guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, "Doc, my brother is crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." The doctor says, "Why don't you bring him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs."
The joke is Woody Allen's, and he applies it to romantic relationships, but we can now apply it to antidepressants: They have been found totally useless as chemicals, but we have to keep taking them because we need what they do for us.
I'm so relieved that I decided not to go the pharmacology route after all with my depression. The feature story in this week's Newsweek is a whistle-blowing article on that family of drugs that have been rammed down our throats to cure America's great disease---clinical depression. With 13.1 to 14.2 million Americans supposedly having it, companies like GlaxoSmithKline supposedly have the cure.
But the nakedness of the emperor has been revealed by studies showing that the whole range of potions, from tricyclics to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are, according to the article, "basically expensive Tic Tacs" ($9.6 billion in 2008).
The problem is that they work somewhat (the illusory chicken produces illusory eggs). But the reason they work is not physiological but faith-based, you might say. They work, Newsweek says, because those who take them expect them to work: "The placebo effect---that is, a medical benefit you get from an inert pill or other sham treatment---rests on the holy trinity of belief, expectation, and hope."
Researcher Irving Kirsch---who, needless to say, is as popular now in some circles as a Tea Party tailgater at an Al Gore rally, or Michael Behe at an evolution convention---used the Freedom of Information Act in 1998 to extract from the Food and Drug Administration published and unpublished studies of Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Effexore, Serzone, and Celexa, 40 percent of which had never seen the light of day.
In 2002 Kirsch reported, "By and large, the unpublished studies were those that had failed to show a significant benefit from taking the drug. . . . The belief that antidepressants can cure depression chemically is simply wrong."
This poses a national dilemma: Should we put an end to this scientific sham and proclaim from the housetops that we are all kidding ourselves in thinking that the alleviation of our symptoms is from our $4 per pill therapy? Or should we leave well enough alone and cover up this dirty little secret---because we need the eggs?
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