UKCP Chair and integrative psychotherapist Martin Pollecoff, welcomed the findings of a major study which has found that commonly used antidepressants are effective in the short-term treatment of depression, but reiterated the need for talking therapies along-side medication.
He said: ‘They taught me in the NHS – there are two kinds of illness. Acute and chronic. Mental issues are chronic and can’t be cured with drugs alone.
‘Yes, the medication will alleviate symptoms but stop taking the pills and you are back to square one unless you have taken steps to change the circumstances that brought on the mental health issue.’
The authors of the international study said that while antidepressants ‘can be an effective tool’ in the treatment of depression, talking therapies should also be considered.
The study, led by researchers at Oxford Health, analysed data from 522 trials involving 116,477 people, and found that 21 commonly used antidepressants were more effective than the placebo for the short-term treatment of moderate to severe depression, ‘with some more effective than others.’
‘Our study brings together the best available evidence to inform and guide doctors and patients in their treatment decision,’ said Dr Andrea Cipriani, lead author and researcher at the University of Oxford and the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.
‘Medication should always be considered alongside other options, such as psychological therapies, where these are available.’
‘Antidepressants can be an effective tool to treat major depression, but this does not necessarily mean that antidepressants should always be the first line of treatment.’
‘Patients should be aware of the potential benefits from antidepressants and always speak to the doctors about the most suitable treatment for them individually.’
The authors noted that some of the data included in the analysis only covers 8-weeks of treatment, so may not necessarily apply to ‘longer term antidepressant use’. They also highlighted that the study looked at the average effect of the drugs rather than how they worked for the individuals, so did not look at the effectiveness in relation to age, gender, severity of symptoms or other characteristics.
Martin Pollecoff added: ‘We see people who have been taking the medication for 20 years. At some point you have to change the circumstances of your life or come to terms with issues in your history and that is where psychotherapy comes in.
‘We live in a relatively rich country yet there are high rates of depression – the causes of these high levels of depression and society need to be looked at as well as plastering over the symptoms.’ he added.
The study was funded by National Institute for Health Research Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.