See Inside June/July 2007

Good News about Depression

A surprising discovery could lead to faster-acting and highly effective drugs to treat this devastating disorder

WORRISOME SIDE EFFECTS of antidepressants—that they incite children and adults to kill themselves—have made headlines in recent years; accordingly, the Food and Drug Administration began to require warnings on these medications in 2005. Most experts, however, agree that this labeling is unwarranted, that the science in support of it is flawed and that the warning itself is detrimental to public health—reasoning that it is likely, if anything, to increase suicide by discouraging treatment of depression. Prescriptions for antidepressants have already gone down.

Although it is true that antidepressants can trigger unpleasant symptoms, including agitation, sexual dysfunction and weight gain, these side effects are not the drugs’ main problem. Their biggest shortcoming is that often they do not work very well; fewer than half the patients who take them get complete relief, and that effect takes an unacceptably long time—two to three weeks—to kick in.

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