Tags: Depression | antidepressant | placebo | effect | depression

Do Antidepressants Work Because People Believe They Will?

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By    |   Monday, 09 Oct 2017 04:42 PM

People who take antidepressants may report they effectively relieve symptoms merely because they expect them to do so. That’s the intriguing finding of Swedish researchers who found that believing in the value of such medications influences their benefits.

The findings suggest that the way doctors describe the benefits of antidepressants may be at least as important as the psychoactive agents they contain, Psych Central reports. https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/10/04/belief-that-depression-meds-will-help-influences-effectiveness/126934.html

The research may also explain why selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work for some individuals but not for others.

Uppsala University researchers said that clinicians and researchers have debated the benefits of SSRIs. Clinicians argue that SSRIs may lack specific therapeutic properties and that their beneficial effects observed in clinical trials could be explained by different expectancies in the drug and placebo groups.

Even in a in a double-blind study in which participants are not informed if they are taking a placebo or an antidepressant, the participant may come to realize that he or she has been given the drug instead of placebo because of the experienced side effects. This knowledge may in turn result in increased expectations of improvement and a better effect is reported.

Researchers at Uppsala University’s Department of Psychology two groups of patients with the same dosage of the antidepressant escitalopram (Lexapro) for nine weeks. But only one group was correctly informed about the drug and its effectiveness; the other group was led to believe they were treated with a so-called “active placebo” with similar side effects as the SSRI but no clinical effect.

They discovered that when participants were informed that they were given an antidepressant, they reported better symptom relief than when told they were given a placebo.

“Our results show that the number of responders was three times higher when correct information was given than when patients thought they were treated with an ineffective active placebo, even though the pharmacological treatment was identical,” said author Dr. Vanda Faria.

In addition, the belief that antidepressant will be successful also resulted in brain changes; MRIs of the participants showed the SSRI had different effects on brain activity when associated with expectations of improvement or not.

The study was published in the journal EBioMedicine.

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Antidepressants may work because people who take them expect the drugs to ease their depression symptoms, a new study suggests.
antidepressant, placebo, effect, depression
Monday, 09 Oct 2017 04:42 PM
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