Neuron Culture

Neuroskeptic ponders the growing evidence that antidepressants significantly best placebo only in the more (or most) depressed patients. His take is that:

antidepressants treat classical clinical depression, of the kind that psychiatrists in 1960 would have recognized. This is the kind of depression that they were originally used for, after all, because the first antidepressants arrived in 1953, and modern antidepressants like Prozac target the same neurotransmitter systems.

Yet in recent years “clinical depression” has become a much broader term. Many peopleattribute this to marketing on the part of pharmaceutical companies. Whatever the cause, it’s almost certain that many people are now being prescribed antidepressants for emotional and personal issues which wouldn’t have been considered medical illnesses until quite recently. Antidepressants also have a long history of use for other conditions, like OCD, but this is a separate issue.

There’s a chicken-egg puzzle in here, of course: Did the expansion of the Dx encourage the rise in Rx, or did the availability (and marketing of) the drugs encourage the expansion of the Dx? I suspect the latter.

Later: D’oh! Neuroskeptic’s post is at Thanks to ericbohlman for pinging me about the oversight. Apparently the hazards of blogging by iPhone are many.

Posted via email from David Dobbs’s Somatic Marker


  1. #1 Pietr
    January 27, 2010

    May I make the suggestion that the combined use of dopamine and serotonin precursors works far better. It also kicks in within minutes

  2. #2 llewelly
    January 27, 2010

    Why do antidepressants work only forntge deeply depressed? A neuroskeptical look

    “forntge”? What on earth does that mean?

  3. #3 David Dobbs
    January 27, 2010

    Means I thumbtyped poorly (I blogged that on my iPhone) and proofread even worse.

  4. #4 ebohlman
    January 27, 2010

    URL for the original article?

  5. #5 David Dobbs
    January 27, 2010

    Eric, Thanks for pinging me about leaving out the url. It’s, and corrected above.

  6. #6 Neuroskeptic
    February 2, 2010

    Thanks for the link!

    “forntge” sounds very obscene. I’m not sure why, maybe because it looks a bit like “porn” or “frottage”… either way, it’s unwholesome.

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