These days, more and more people believe that the solution lies in a taking a pill. The use of anti-depressants has doubled in Australia between 2000 and now, and they account for two out of every three psychotropic medications prescribed (Uni of Sydney, 2012)[1]. Similarly, the use of anti-psychotic drugs has also increased in that period[2] .

Professor Iain McGregor of the University of Sydney has gone on record saying that there are major concerns about this given a range of issues including the questionable effectiveness of anti-depressants, particularly in mild to moderate cases of depression, and their associated side effects (which may include fatigue, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction)[3].

While anti-depressants have been shown by some studies to be effective some of the time with moderate to severe depression, it is unclear as to how effective they are with mild to moderate depression[4]. As most people presenting to a GP are presenting with symptoms of mild to moderate depression, and yet most of these appear to be sent away with a script for anti-depressants, it is unclear what benefits, if any they are getting from the drug treatments they are being prescribed.

On top of that, recent analysis of published studies on drug effectiveness has shown that a very clear bias has occurred in reporting, skewing the perceived effectiveness of those drugs[5].

While our society mottos continually exhort us to “soldier on”, “keep it together”, and “move on”, these create an expectation that we “get over” whatever disturbs us – preferably quickly.

The idea of being able to take a pill and feel better fast appeals to the expectations we seem to be developing in our modern world to get fast and easy results. Unfortunately, being human and sorting out what makes for a satisfying and meaningful life doesn’t happen that way.

Chances are, we didn’t get to the way things are overnight. So why should we expect the situation to be resolved so quickly? Often, the situations we find ourselves in are the result of a complex mix of our family upbringing, cultural and political heritage, gender, race, religion, sexuality, life experiences and traumas, significant life events, health, and socio-economic and education background. No pill is about to make it all better instantly! Depending on the severity of the issues, the person’s resources and other presenting challenges in the situation, research suggests you should be seeing signs of change within the first four to six sessions for most issues.

[1] “Australians double their anti-depressants”, Univ of Sydney website.

[2] ibid

[3] Stephenson, CP, Karanges, E, and McGregor, IS, (2013) “Trends in the utilization of psychotropic medications in Australia from 2000 to 2011”, in Austr NZ Journal of Psychiatry (9)2012,

[4] Harald Baumeister, “Inappropriate prescriptions of antidepressant drugs in patients with sub-threshold to mild depression: Time for the evidence to become practice”, Journal of Affective Disorders

[5] Erick H. Turner, et al., “Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy”, N Engl J Med 2008; 358:252-260January 17, 2008 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMsa065779

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