Do antidepressants really work? We finally have an answer

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A new study sheds light on the matter.

Prof Carmine Pariante, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "This meta-analysis finally puts to bed the controversy on antidepressants, clearly showing that these drugs do work in lifting mood and helping most people with depression".

She said: "Also, this paper does not help us understand how best to help patients who have treatment-resistant depression and can not improve on any of the 21 antidepressants tested here". That said, some drugs were found to be more effective than others.

"This research should reassure patients who are taking or are contemplating commencing antidepressants, and the doctors that prescribe them, that they are an effective treatment".

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Their study, which examined 120,000 people in more than 500 trials across three decades, concluded emphatically that antidepressants do work. By clarifying which antidepressants are most effective, and which ones patients find easiest to take, this new work will greatly help clinicians and patients in those decisions'.

It was only the 16th best performing medicine of the 21 most common brands on offer - 52% more effective than a placebo.

'Although antidepressants are of proven benefit - as this study shows - no doctor wants their patients to become reliant on medication so where possible, Global Positioning System will explore alternative treatments, such as talking therapies or CBT, which can be of great benefit for some patients'.

Some 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide according to the World Health Organisation, with just one in six people in rich countries getting effective treatment.

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Experts not involved in the research agreed the results were significant. "We don't have any very precise treatments for depression at this point in time", said Geddes. The researchers likewise reached out to pharmaceutical companies and other researchers to gather unpublished study data on the matter. There are numerous different forms that work in different ways, however, they all revolve around the idea of increasing levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and noradrenaline.

She said in a statement: "Taking antidepressants is frequently portrayed as a negative thing or something done only when other therapies are not available or have failed, but this in itself can add to the unfortunate stigma that sometimes exists around people with mental health conditions".

"This rigorous study confirms that antidepressants have an important place in the treatment of depression", Dr James Warner, Reader in Psychiatry, Imperial College London.

"Of course, these type of studies can not look at individual differences, so can not inform us about the specific personal characteristics that make an individual more likely to respond in general, or to respond to one medication rather than another one". "It should never be swept under the carpet or ignored".

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