Scientists have finally concluded that anti-depressants work following the results of a major new study.
According to the results – published in the Lancet – which analysed data from 522 trials involving 116,477 people, it was found 21 common anti-depressants were all more effective at reducing symptoms of acute depression than placebos.
The authors of the report said it showed that many more people could benefit from the drugs, although the study also showed big differences in how effective each drug is.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said that the study “finally puts to bed the controversy on anti-depressants.” and hoped it would end the stigma attached to the drugs.
In 2016, 64.7 million prescriptions for the drugs were given out in England, which was more than double the 31 million in 2006.
The systematic review and network meta-analysis – which included unpublished data in addition to information from the 522 clinical trials involving the short-term treatment of acute depression in adults – found the medications were all more effective than placebos.
The survey found that “antidepressants were more efficacious than placebo in adults with major depressive disorder.” The study read:
“Smaller differences between active drugs were found when placebo-controlled trials were included in the analysis, whereas there was more variability in efficacy and acceptability in head-to-head trials. These results should serve evidence-based practice and inform patients, physicians, guideline developers, and policy makers on the relative merits of the different antidepressants.”
Lead researcher Dr Andrea Cipriani, from the University of Oxford, told the BBC:
“This study is the final answer to a long-standing controversy about whether anti-depressants work for depression… We found the most commonly prescribed anti-depressants work for moderate to severe depression and I think this is very good news for patients and clinicians.”
But Rachel Boyd, Information Manager at mental health charity Mind, stressed that anti-depressants aren’t the only treatment option. Speaking to Prima, she said:
“What people find helpful in managing their mental health will vary from person to person – whether this is medication, talking therapies, making lifestyle changes such as taking exercise, or a mixture of these.”
“It’s important to say that, while antidepressants can be effective for some, they are not the solution for everyone and are not recommended as a first-line treatment for mild depression. Anyone considering taking anti-depressants should be made aware of the possible side effects they might experience and should have their treatment reviewed regularly… Someone managing their mental health problems should be treated as a whole person and they should be able to access whatever treatment, or combination of treatments, works best for them.”