There’s an intriguing body of research that suggests the power of antidepressants doesn’t come from chemicals in the drugs, but from the power of placebo. Not everyone agrees, though. We speak to researchers and medical professionals on either side of the debate, and some wedged in-between -- Prof. Peter Kramer, psychiatrist and author of Ordinarily Well: the Case for Antidepressants; Prof. Irving Kirsch, psychologist and author of The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth; psychiatrist and radiologist Prof. Helen Mayberg; and psychiatrist Prof. Gregory Simon.
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This episode has been produced by Wendy Zukerman, Heather Rogers, Shruti Ravindran, and Diane Wu. Our senior producer is Kaitlyn Sawrey. Edited by Annie-Rose Strasser and Caitlin Kenney. Fact checking by Michelle Harris. Sound design and music production by Matthew Boll, mixed by Martin Peralta and Matthew Boll. Music written by Bobby Lord and Martin Peralta.
Selected References2008 study suggesting that antidepressants are not much better than placebo for people suffering in severe depression.2016 study suggesting that antidepressants were way better than placebo in treating people suffering from severe depression. 2016 study on how drug companies under-report side effects in clinical trials. 2003 round-up of the most common side-effects of antidepressants. 2013 study which uses brain imaging to try to pinpoint whether patients would respond better to medication or psychotherapy.