Irving Kirsch has the world doubting the efficacy of antidepressants. Do they work, or are they no better than placebos? Like his colleagues, Kirsch spent years referring patients to psychiatrists to have their depression treated with drugs. Eventually, however, he decided to investigate for himself just how effective the drugs actually were.
With 15 years of research, Kirsch demonstrates that what everyone "knew" about antidepressants is wrong; what the medical community considered a cornerstone of psychiatric treatment is little more than a faulty consensus. But The Emperor's New Drugs does more than just criticize: it offers a path society can follow to stop popping pills and start proper treatment.
About the author: Irving Kirsch, PhD, a native of New York City, is a professor of psychology at the University of Hull, United Kingdom, as well as professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut. He lives in Hull, England.
©2010 Irving Kirsch (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"[Kirsch's] case that the drugs' benefits are due to placebo and enhanced placebo effect is fascinating and demands urgent research...Clearly, it's time for a big rethink of what constitutes mental illness and about how to treat it." (New Scientist)
"The Emperor's New Drugs absolutely dismantles the case for antidepressants as a pharmacologically effective treatment." (Psychology Today)
"[A] spare, remarkably engrossing book...Kirsch is a faithful proponent of the scientific method, and his voice therefore brings a welcome objectivity to a subject often swayed by anecdotes, emotions, or...self-interest." (New York Review of Books)
Not particularly. I can see why this book and supporting arguments cause controversy in the field.
He does make an excellent case about the limits of placebo studies where the side effects of the drug in question are conspicuous (i.e. you can't run a good double blind trial of antidepressants: the presence - or not - of tell-tale side effects means that people can tell whether they've been given the actual drug or the placebo).
But - this isn't the same as disproving that antidepressants, in particular, have an effect. He questions the 'brain chemical' theory of depression based just on the placebo argument, but this is quite insufficient. For example, illegal drugs such as MDMA have a mood enhancing effect clearly brought about by changes in brain chemicals (and neurotransmitters in particular). There does seem a relationship between brain chemicals and depression, and whilst it may not be well understood, the author seems to be saying that the whole theory is plain wrong, and that neurotransmitters have nothing to do with depression.
The book would be better as a critique of placebo studies in general rather than one of antidepressants in particular, but this wouldn't sell as many books.
Note that you should NOT stop taking antidepressants as a result of listening to this if you take them without consulting your doctor first, partly because there can be withdrawal symptoms. This warning is included within the work itself.
The work provides pretty compelling arguments for the point of view that antidepressant medications are about as effective as placebos.
I would say that this is a useful listen if you suffer from depression or have somebody close to you who suffers from depression who you wish to help, but you should be careful how you use the information. The end goal is, of course, to get better, and drugs do help with that goal. Other therapies could provide similar or better results without side effects.
The narrator references figures that have not been included with the audio version of this book. Perhaps that's something audible can correct.
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