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The Emperor's New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth Paperback – March 8, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When he began a new research project on antidepressants and placebos (a "meta-analysis" of a large number of published studies), practicing psychotherapist and research psychologist Kirsch (How Expectancies Shape Experience) was surprised to uncover evidence that inadequate supervision by the FDA had allowed pharmaceutical companies to cherry-pick test results for publication and submission to the feds, suppressing unwanted outcomes; further, apparent evidence of active drugs' effectiveness when compared to placebos could often be attributed to patients correctly guessing which group they were in based on the side effects (or the lack thereof) they had come to expect in conjunction with anti-depressants. When his results were published in early 2008, Kirsch was surprised to find himself and his research the subject of front page newspaper stories, TV and radio coverage, and a vigorous debate in the medical community that continues to this day. Writing with a broad audience in mind, Kirsch expands on this important topic in a lively style with clear, cogent explanations of the science involved, and many examples of the differences between solid and flawed research. The result is a fascinating book with broad implications for science policy. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
Recent surveys show almost 30 million Americans taking Prozac, Paxil, and their ilk at a cost of more than $10 billion annually. With decades of persuasive clinical trials and testimonials from patients and physicians attesting to it, such antidepressants’ overall effectiveness has long been deemed indisputable by psychiatrists. Yet according to psychologist Kirsch’s damning expose of pharmaceutical industry greed, that efficacy is entirely due to the placebo effect. Kirsch makes the bulk of his case by reviewing data from dozens of clinical trials dating back to the 1960s, including ones kept hidden by drug companies, which demonstrate that antidepressants work no better than pills that mimic antidepressants’ side effects. Kirsch also dismantles drug company assertions that newer antidepressants, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, work by balancing faulty brain chemistry. His contentions have already stirred controversy, including the predictable criticism from Big Pharma. Yet his work is an overdue wake-up call to the psychological professions to begin treating depression with more compassionate methods than expensive pill-popping. --Carl Hays --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I got this book because of a seminar on the elderly being over medicated. I see it every time I go out. It is sad to see people looking up at the ceiling, comatose, withering away. And at the heart of it for many people is over medication.
The book is well researched and accurate. It is readable. But it is not pleasant reading because it is the truth. It made me angry.
This is a detailed and brilliant exposition of a global multi-billion dollar confidence trick. Anybody taking SSRIs needs to read this book and then come up with a plan to wean themselves off the drug. Assume that you will relapse at some point and have a plan, just not one that involves a harmful placebo like an SSRI.
Apart from debunking the myth of the SSRI miracle, the author also fully explores the truly miraculous placebo effect. It occurred to me a few years ago that everybody seemed to be looking past the most powerful cure-all known to man when in fact we should be researching the placebo effect in order to better understand how to leverage it. Interestingly, Dr Kirsch talks about the ethics of misleading the patient by not disclosing when an inert placebo is being administered. I would gladly sign a disclaimer to allow any and all physicians to feed me sugar pills with a large dose of bull if that is what they think will do the trick.
I remember first doctor to give me "chemical imbalance in the brain" speech. I thought it was bulls*** then and I have continued to think it was bulls***. They can't measure your serotonin levels and even if they could would the lower level be a symptom or a cause. The theory is about a valid as saying - "You are depressed. This is due to your sad facial expression. We are going to perform a surgical procedure to put a permanent smile on your face and you will then feel much better."
That said, I fell into the trap of believing that the Lexapro I was prescribed actually worked. As Dr. Kirsch posits, starting on the drug actually made me feel so much worse than I already did that it was just about unbearable. My depression deepened to where I could barely move and I would sweat uncontrollably. I imagine that as I became adapted to the drug, the worst mood and physical effects lessened and ironically this may have made me believe that the drug was working and given me the lift I needed to start my way from the depths back up to the surface. Of course, I came to believe in my dependence on the drug for mood stability and I have struggled to come off the drug. I am currently about 20 pounds overweight and have all of the much discussed sexual issues. I will be coming off for good this time. The worst I have ever felt is when I began to take the drug and I am going to need to recognize that the drug effect is an illusion and use psychotherapy and other techniques to treat the condition.
But perhaps what encourages me most about this book (which is also why I recommend it to anyone) is that during the final chapter, he does not just leave the reader depressed over knowing that antidepressants are effective placebos. He actually walks the reader through possible alternative treatments. In other words, he deconstructs the so-called Antidepressent Myth, then offers his readers solutions the problems that depression continues to pose. It's a brief chapter, but effective nonetheless.
I recommend this book particularly for the student of psychology because it is a great demonstration of how to take complicated research in the social sciences and make it accessible to all readers, something we psychologists ought to do a lot more of. (I speak as a psychologist; there are plenty of other professionals who ought to also take page out of Kirsch's book, figuratively speaking, and let us in on all their secrets.)
All around, a great book.
There is no truth to the brain chemicsl imballance theory. The APA issued those same findings in 2007 and 2009. The drug companies hide the truth about clinical trialscand sed cutie reps to provider offices. A must read for professionals and the lay/patient.
I could not put the book down, and afterwards felt compelled to take action regarding the colossal waste of time and money that has been put into these medications and into fooling governments and the medical profession that they work.
I found the book well written, and covers the complex territory in an informative way that can be understood by non professional people. It avoids the sensationalism of the topic by being understated, without the need to provide personal touch case stories to embellish what is a compelling story anyway. I have to invoke the cliche that this is a "life changing" book for anyone who has been touched by the medical profession in the realm of psychiatry.