Antidepressants Depression
Seroxat pills are seen in this illustration picture taken in Bucharest April 19, 2013. Reuters/Bogdan Cristel

Depression and anxiety in Australia is a major problem. They affect a substantial number of the Australian population (10 percent women and 4.8 percent men) and are also responsible for 8 percent of the total loss in disability-adjusted life years. Depression and anxiety are also associated with an increased risk of suicide and heart diseases that cause early deaths. Both are a major cause of non-fatal disease in the Australian community for women.

A new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia, states that antidepressants are not as effective as they are thought to be. In fact, they prevent less than half of the burden caused by depression. The findings come at a time when Australia’s antidepressant use has surged manifold. Currently, Australia has the highest rate of antidepressant use in the world. Despite the fact that effectiveness of antidepressants is lower, usage rate has more than doubled since 2000.

Research authors Christopher G Davey and Andrew M Chanen from Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health and University of Melbourne, said that antidepressants have been found to be ineffective for 30 to 40 percent of the people who use them as the only treatment for depression.

“The main argument we wanted to make was that antidepressants shouldn't be the only treatment people consider for depression. We want to de-emphasise medication because it seems to be too much the main focus for treatments,” Davey told The Huffington Post Australia.

Davey believes that the antidepressants are only modestly effective and the gap between the drugs and placebo is not that large. One in 10 Australians take antidepressants daily. The authors believe that there has been a surge in antidepressant use after the release of the first selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the 1980s.

This made people think that depression is a result of chemical imbalance that can be corrected with a pill. The authors also revealed that due to selective publishing of positive results, people made antidepressants a staple. They also criticised the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.

The researchers have urged medical experts to prescribe antidepressants only with other psychotherapies and not as the only treatment option. Medication should be considered only when the depression is moderately severe and when psychotherapies have not worked for a particular patient.