September 13, 2013
Yet another article was published recently that touted the positive effects of psychotherapy. In this study the authors noted that psychotherapy was as effective as antidepressant medication at treating and preventing relapses of depressive episodes. Of course the side effects from psychotherapy are much less than those from medication, which is nice. But what made this article special was that it was published in JAMA Psychiatry. Yup, one of the best professional publications for psychiatrists said that medications are not better that psychotherapy. This is great for several reasons. First and foremost, it’s a wonderful demonstration that the ever-increasingly medicalized field of psychiatry is willing to acknowledge the benefits of non-medical approaches. Of course the content of the article is great too; there are many people who cannot tolerate psychiatric medications or simply do not want to use medicine to treat their psychological issues, and this (and many other) article(s) supports these individuals in not caving in to popping a pill to rid themselves of psychological pain. Now, please don’t get me wrong… in no way am I opposed to appropriate use of psychiatric medication. However, I am very frequently disappointed by medical professionals who prescribe antidepressants, sleep aids and antianxiety medications without considering empirically validated better options first or at least in conjunction with the medications.
January 23, 2013
Look around the room and you’re likely to find at least one person who is on an antidepressant medication now. I just did a Google search for the “top prescription drugs” and according to Drugs.com, one antidepressant and another psychiatric medication are in the top ten ranking. I often perform this search with my patients and there have been times when three or even four of the top ten prescribed drugs have been antidepressants and antianxiety medications.
In a recent piece in The Daily Telegraph from the UK, a general practitioner spoke out about the overuse of such medications, often without adequate discussion about the potential side effects of these drugs. I couldn’t agree more. Now with that said, I should be clear: I often recommend (sometimes quite strongly) that some of my patients consider taking antidepressant and other psychiatric medications. We should not be polarized in our thinking about such treatment… these meds are often quite effective and when properly prescribed can have limited side effects (or we can even “leverage” the side effects to our advantage by prescribing antidepressants that have a more sedating side effect profile to patients with insomnia or meds with a more activating side effect profile to folks having trouble getting out of bed in the morning). But such medications should not be used instead of other treatments such as psychotherapy; they are typically most effective when used in conjunction with talk therapy. For more information see some of my other blog posts such as APA Promotes Psychotherapy and Use of Antidepressants.
October 17, 2012
The American Psychological Association (APA) recently launched a new awareness initiative about the benefits of psychotherapy. There are a couple cute videos (below) that mock the pharmaceutical commercials that we see too often. Though I very much appreciate this approach, I do not fully agree with the claim that psychotherapy has no negative side effects. I can’t think of anything we can ingest, be exposed to or do that doesn’t have some side effects; for example everything we do comes at the expense of something else that we otherwise could have done. I speak often about “compromise formation” with my patients and consulting clients, and with this concept, I believe firmly that psychotherapy does have side effects, but that they are almost always “worth it” from a cost-benefit analysis perspective.
Enjoy the videos…
October 20, 2011
The CDC just put out a report about Americans’ use of antidepressants. The paper has already gotten a bunch of press (Washington Post, CNN, Reuters to name a few). Some of the key bullet points of the paper are:
- Eleven percent of Americans aged 12 years and over take antidepressant medication.
- Females are more likely to take antidepressants than are males, and non-Hispanic white persons are more likely to take antidepressants than are non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American persons.
- About one-third of persons with severe depressive symptoms take antidepressant medication.
- More than 60% of Americans taking antidepressant medication have taken it for 2 years or longer, with 14% having taken the medication for 10 years or more.
- Less than one-third of Americans taking one antidepressant medication and less than one-half of those taking multiple antidepressants have seen a mental health professional in the past year.
Wow, that’s a lot of info to digest, but a couple points stand out for me: 1) only one third of severely depressed people take antidepressants, and 2) less than one third of people taking antidepressants have seen a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. What this means is that the people who most need antidepressant medication are not taking any, and most people who are taking such medication don’t access services that can either replace, or serve as adjunctive treatment to, the antidepressant medication they are already taking.