depression-week-image-300x300-300x300Clinical depression, formally known as major depressive disorder, is one of the most prevalent mental disorders worldwide, affecting 350 million people worldwide,  including a whopping 17% of the population of the United States. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Americans spend $10 billion per year on nearly 260 million prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft, which are heavily marketed on television as useful treatments for “chemical imbalances” that supposedly underly depression, despite the dearth of scientific evidence to support these claims. The market for anti-depressants is second only to the market for statin drugs, which treat high cholesterol and heart disease, but unlike with statins, there is ongoing controversy regarding the effectiveness of modern anti-depressants. These anti-depressants, which today are comprised primarily of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), seem to be equivalent to placebo for mild to moderate cases of depression, according to meta-analyses (1, 2) of the clinical trials used to win FDA approval for these drugs in the past couple decades, although it should be noted that the debate over SSRI efficacy is far from settled.
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