Should I take meds for depression or anxiety? Read Whitaker’s book first!

The recent book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, by Robert Whitaker is a must read for anyone who is planning or taking medications to treat mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, or panic attacks. His in-depth evidence based book, which reads like a novel, suggests that psychiatric drug benefits are mainly a myth and contribute significantly to creating life-long dysfunction and worsening of the  symptoms. He cites study after study demonstrating this for depression, children with ADHD, biopolar disorder, panic attacks, anxiety and even schizophrenia. For example he cites a  Canadian study of  1,281 people who went on on short-term disability for depression. Only  19 percent of those who took an antidepressant ended up on long-term disability, versus 9 percent of those who didn’t take the medication.

More importantly, when people are treated for panic attacks with benzodiazepine such as Xanax,  the placebo groups does much better in the long term than the drug treatment group after medication is tapered off. Whitaker illustrates this concept  by showing the following research data that was part of the FDA approval for the medication.

This Upjohn’s study of Xanax, patients were treated with the drug or placebo for eight weeks. Then this treatment was slowly withdrawn (weeks 9 through 12), and during the last two weeks patients didn’t receive any treatment. The Xanax patients fared better during the first four weeks, which is the result that the Upjohn investigators focused on in their journal articles. However, once the Xanax patients began withdrawing from the the drug, they suffered many more panic attacks than the placebo patients, and at the end of the study were much more symptomatic. Source: Ballenger, C “Alprazolam in panic disorder and agoraphobia.” Archives of General Psychiatry 45 (1988): 413–22. Pecknold, C “Alprazolam in panic disorder and agoraphobia.” Archives of General Psychiatry 45 (1988): 429–36.

From: Whitaker, Robert (2010-03-31). Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America (p. 297).

This book and the scientific evidence suggests that non-pharmacological treatment approaches should be the first strategy for treatment–it may save your life.


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