Antidepressants: Do you really need one?

CBS Sunday Morning this morning aired a piece on the rampant use of antidepressants in the United States. An astounding 30 million people in our country  take antidepressants. Yet, as pointed out in the program, we are not all walking around deliriously happy.

Why is that?  There are several explanations for the overuse of antidepressants. One thought  is that people are often prescribed an antidepressant when they are only mildly sad or slightly depressed. Primary care physicians prescribe antidepressants along with antibiotics and many other medications, and since they have not been trained in psychiatry, too often they write a prescription based on the patient’s report of feeling a bit depressed.

Pharmaceutical companies advertise directly to consumers. A commercial for Cymbalta sends this message: “Not feeling like yourself? You could be suffering from depression. Cymbalta can help.”

Antidepressants are very helpful if the diagnosis is truly depression.  People who suffer from moderate or severe depression benefit from medication. Individuals with mild depression or sadness do not respond to antidepressants. A recent JAMA study shows that the effect of antidepressants in this group are only slightly more effective than placebos.

If you feel that you are suffering from depression, seek the help of an experienced psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner for a complete evaluation and assessment.

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