Severe depression impacts the lives of an estimated 14% of Americans. Sales of antidepressants have soared to $10 billion a year. What's the best treatment?
A just-released Consumer Reports survey examines the effectiveness of both antidepressants and talk therapy.
Drug companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on ads for antidepressants.
But do drugs help? Consumer Reports National Research Center of 1,500 subscribers finds they can help many people.
Jamie Hirsh of Consumer Reports says, "Medication alone can help, but our survey shows that improvement from drugs levels off over time. Those who also had talk therapy and stuck with it for at least seven sessions had the best results."
Wini Alcorn says talk therapy combined with medication helped her overcome paralyzing depression. She now has a job she loves and has recently gotten married.
Alcorn says, "I'm finally happy. I like where I am now. I feel like I've finally found my feet and found who I am."
Wini says she's tried to do without medication, but finds she really needs it to stay on an even keel. The side effects have been manageable, although that's not always the case.
Hirsh says, "About a third of people in our survey who took antidepressants reported a decrease in sexual interest or function."
Other side effects people experiences--weight gain, dry mouth, and sleep problems.
Hirsh says, "If you feel you can't tolerate antidepressants, the good news is that talk therapy alone helped somewhat or even a lot for almost 90% of people in our survey who had it."
And as far as drug side effects, Consumer Reports found fewer people had them with an older class of drugs, called SSRI's-medications like Prozac, Zoloft, and their generic equivalents.
The survey was conducted among Consumer Reports readers with an average age of 58.
And, interesting to note, the poll also shows the brand-name antidepressants you see heavily advertised-which are SNRI's-were no more effective than the older class of drugs you can get as generics.