Researchers found anti-depressants are just as effective as counselling in treating moderate to severe depression. Led by researchers from Danube University, the study found an overall improvement of 45 percent in depression rates among patient groups who took different treatment techniques.
The researchers analyzed 11 controlled trials with over 1,500 patients. The trials involved patients who took modern-day anti-depressants such as Prozac and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). When it comes to effectivity in treating moderate to severe cases of depression, both treatments showed similar results.
"We don't think this finding is particularly surprising, because each treatment has its own evidence base that shows they're effective in treating major depressive disorder," said lead author Halle Amick from the Research Triangle Institute-University of North Carolina.
Amick stressed that the study is one of the few papers that assessed both treatment styles head to head. Many doctors don't have a clear understanding of how CBT works, leaving them with little confidence in prescribing this approach.
About four million Britons take anti-depressants annually, which is twice as many compared to the past decade. Mental health groups raised a red flag on the issue.
Anti-depressants are cheap, fast alternatives to counselling, facts that propelled its prescription increase in the past 10 years. A past report found that one in 10 patients who want to take counselling wait for over a year before getting their needs evaluated.
Royal College of Psychiatrists president, Professor Sir Simon Wessely emphasized that the findings clearly prove what many experts have said: both counselling and anti-depressants should be presented to patients. Experts believe that the patient's preference and counselling availability will ultimately affect the final decision.
"This research is important because it suggests that, when possible, patients should be given the opportunity to choose what treatment they would prefer," added Professor Shirley Reynolds, the director of Charlie Waller Institute at the University of Reading.
National Institute of Health and Care Excellence guidelines says patients with moderate to severe cases of depressions should be presented with a combination of counselling and anti-depressants. The patient's preference should always be taken into account. The findings were published in BMJ on Dec. 8.