A Real-World View of Depression Treatment

It appears that most Americans take the easy way out when it comes to the treatment of depression. Given a choice between talk therapy and taking an antidepressant, the medication wins out.

This is one of the key findings of a survey of 1500 readers of Consumer Reports who had sought medical help for depression and/or anxiety between January 2006 and April 2009. Nearly 80 percent of these respondents had received a prescription for an antidepressant after their diagnosis of depression or anxiety.

I wonder how many of these folks were aware of the following about antidepressants:

  • Remission of depressive symptoms, via the use of antidepressants, may span over an 8-12 week period
  • Only 30 percent of depressed people achieve remission on their first antidepressant trial
  • Only 43 percent of antidepressant users realize sustained recovery

Unfortunately, most depressed individuals are unaware that the treatment of depression through pharmacological options alone is downright hard! Most of these folks are not informed about the above-mentioned bullet points by their treating prescriber, and needless to say, the pharmaceutical companies are not in the business of promoting drug failures. And because symptom remission is so slow, people tend to not take enough of the drug for long enough and flat out give up.

Depending of course on severity, there is no easy road out of depression. It takes commitment and a decision to want to get better. And because depression is a cluster of symptoms with many possible causes, there is NO one treatment modality adequate enough to cover for the multi-factorial aspects of the disorder.

Just like diabetics cannot rely on insulin or medication alone to manage their blood sugar, depressed people cannot rely solely on antidepressants to manage their mood and/or anxiety symptoms. Feeling better comes only from doing the work, and merely swallowing a pill is little work at all.

Joseph Wegmann, R.Ph., LCSW is a licensed clinical pharmacist and a clinical social worker with more than thirty years of experience in the field of psychopharmacology. His diverse professional background in psychopharmacology and counseling affords him a unique perspective on medication management issues. In addition to consulting with numerous psychiatric facilities, he has presented psychopharmacology seminars to thousands of clinicians in 46 states.

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