Antidepressant medication

In many situations of grief, a well-meaning medical practitioner may prescribe antidepressants, so it is worth knowing some things.

Our society is obsessed with taking a pill to rid every problem. Depression used to be something that happened to one person in a hundred; then it was one person in twenty, and now it’s higher. According to the Black Dog institute, “One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder.” In one study the lead author, Professor John Read reported, “The medicalization of sadness and distress has reached bizarre levels. One in ten people in some countries are now prescribed antidepressants each year.”

Antidepressants are prescribed for depression and anxiety problems. More people are taking these medications than ever before, and more people are apparently experiencing these problems. Do these medications actually work? If they did solve these problems, there would be less and less people needing them. Instead more and more people are taking them! They hope the pills will work, but they are disappointing for many people.

There are many reasons to think that antidepressants do not actually work. The Pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars from promoting these drugs, and it is not in their interest to accurately inform the public (or the doctors).

In recent years, the data presented to the regulatory authorities for approval of antidepressant medications, has been independently re-examined. They work no better than placebos – when antidepressants are compared with ‘active’ placebos (meaning medications that have similar side effects, but are not antidepressants) there is no difference in helping people with depression. This is discussed in detail in a book on the subject which is reviewed here: Essentially the finding is, therapy is better. And combining therapy and antidepressants, is no better than therapy alone.

Side-effects of antidepressants

These are very common, and according to Professor John Read, mentioned above…

  • 62% said they had ‘sexual difficulties’,
  • 52% said they ‘didn’t feel like themselves’,
  • 42% noticed a ‘reduction in positive feelings’,
  • 39% found themselves ‘caring less about others’,
  • and 55% reported ‘withdrawal effects’.

Risk of suicide increases

Professor Read also wrote, “Our finding that over a third of respondents reported suicidality ‘as a result of taking the antidepressants’ suggests that earlier studies may have underestimated the problem.” [When conducting clinical trials they select patients who are not suicidal; that is generally a criterion. However, some participants do take their lives, but moreso if they are on antidepressants rather than placebos.] If one is prescribed an antidepressant, the person needs to be monitored for the risk of suicide, particularly at the beginning.

The difficulty for doctors

It is not easy for a general practitioner to keep up to date on all the different fields of knowledge. And if faced with a distressed, grieving individual, the doctor may feel rushed, pressured, helpless, untrained… So she or he may think prescribing an antidepressant is a good thing to do; but probably it isn’t.

I have lots of other choices for helping people, and so based on the science I advise clients, and my friends, to avoid antidepressants.


Dr Peter Gotzsche – presenting evidence on Antidepressants

Peter is a prominent figure in terms of medical information.  He is the director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark, a government funded organisation.  In Medicine, Cochrane is a name associated with independent evaluation of medical literature, in contrast to the all too common sources which are funded and influenced by multinational pharmaceutical companies, which tend to promote their own interests.  Peter’s professional profile is here –

In early 2015 Peter was talking in Australia and his lecture was recorded.  The lecture is 60 minutes long, and provides excellent information.  The remaining time is question and answer, and adds very little.  Caution: if anyone is on antidepressant information and wants to come off the medication, please do so only under the care of a doctor who is willing to supervise the process.