Sunday, March 02, 2008

Two placebos a day please

Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, DOES NOT WORK and nor do similar drugs in the same class (Paxil, Seroxat, Effexor and Serzone etc.), a new study revealed last week.

"The study examined all available data on the drugs, including results from clinical trials that the manufacturers chose not to publish at the time. The trials compared the effect on patients taking the drugs with those given a placebo or sugar pill.

When all the data was pulled together, it appeared that patients had improved - but those on placebo improved just as much as those on the drugs."
-The Guardian 26/02/07

I don't know what to think about all this hoo-ha. My pills work. Don't they?

I was v skeptical before I first started paxil, I'd always thought you should just tough your way through the bad-times, but taking it changed everything. I started breathing again. And enjoying breathing.

It's hard to admit to being duped. It's hard to believe it. But drug companies have never been exactly squeaky-clean.

So, what do you think? Are you just another anti-depressanted chump?


Blogger Erik Donald France said...

Tui, I can't speak for much besides aspirin (which does seem to help) and Nico-gum, which takes the edge off wanting a smoke. The others may be a crap shoot with various effects.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Tui,

I like almost every pill I've ever met, but I've never tried an anti-depressant. Doctors push them hard sometimes, but I'm still nervous about them. Give me the valium and xanax -- those do work. I'm sure they're super healthy too. Ha!

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

Hi Tui

Just stumbled across your blog through Technorati. I'm a scientist who suffered from depression a couple of years back, so I wanted to get to the bottom of this story. I've written a post on it on my own blog if you want to take a look.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

after much soul searching, i finally went on paxil years ago when things got really bad. it was like a miracle. perhaps it was simply a very strong placebo effect, but i had the same experience you did- i started breathing again, and enjoying it, and started LIVING. i've been off it for ages, though i do now sometimes use xanax, but i'm not sure i can believe that my experience was due entirely to the placebo effect.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Tui,

I'm also a scientist, with a history of drug research and even worked on the original development of Zoloft. Like Martin, I agree that the popular media put an inaccurate slant on this story. Historically, the antidepressants show a greater placebo effect than is seen in other drug classes. The explanation I received for this is that depressed people in the clinical studies tend to be lonely and isolated, or in general dissatisfied with their lives, and they respond to the increased attention and interaction that they
receive during the clinical trials,
whether or not they get the active drug or placebo. This tends to dilute the positive drug effect down to a nonsignificant level. However, in the real world, people who only get the pills and not the attention will show a greater effect relative to no treatment at all. Hope that helps. - Dr. Tom

7:10 PM  
Blogger tui said...

Thank-you for your opinions.

Following a link on Martin's blog, I found some comments that were quite amusing on a post about placebos (interesting post btw).

Here we go:

"...As a former drugs counsellor, I often heard it said that heroin users would inject saline knowingly, and yet obtain a high from doing so. If that is true, it would be a striking example of a non-deceptive placebo effect."

and in response to this:

"...The heroin addicts were not so deluded as you make out. The body has no real way of knowing what is injected, what the body knows and reacts to is the act of injection. So when injected intravenously a high is indeed produced, possibly by release of endogenous opiods or simply by stimulus caused activation of the relevant neural pathways... ‘knowing’ it is only saline does nothing to stop that pathway."


More people touting theories about crap they just really don't know about. It's the old "but my-brother's-girlfriend's-aunt said so..."

Still, if only that WERE true, life would be a pretty grand fairytale. If I had placebo heroin I def wouldn't need my placebo paxil any more.


10:49 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

It's not so crazy at all - in fact I think I have a couple of good references for it (although I'll have to check in work tomorrow as I don't have journal access at home at the moment).

I'm reminded of another study too, where psychologists in New Zealand succeeded in getting subjects drunk on tonic water (

4:33 PM  
Blogger tui said...

Martin, as a heroin addict I can say definitively that injecting water in no way feels like injecting heroin. Even a slightly diluted dose of heroin is instantly noticable.
I have heard of people injecting water to satisfy a needle fixation, but none of them claim to feel any high.


1:24 AM  
Anonymous Martin said...

Tui, your experience is just one of many. Nobody is suggesting that injecting water is the same as injecting heroin for all or even most heroin addicts. Just that in *some* cases, *some* people experience *some* of the effects.

As promised, some peer-reviewed science (see p.53 onwards):
referencing research in which users experiences some similar mental and physiologial effects to a drug high (notably euphoria, pupil dilation among others) while knowingly injecting saline.

The comments aren't entirely

6:10 AM  
Anonymous said...

...accurate, but they're not that wide of the mark either. The mind is a bizarre thing...

(Lol, accidentally forgot to finish my comment)

6:12 AM  
Blogger tui said...

I guess it all shows how powerful the mind is over the body. It would be nice to harness that power.
Thanks for your interesting comments Martin.


3:29 AM  
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2:54 AM  

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