By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – Millions of Americans take antidepressant medications, but for decades the question has been: do they really work?

A new report analyzes 522 studies which followed more than 116,000 people, and finds the answer is yes — anti-depressants are truly and legitimately helpful.

Researchers looked at 21 medications, and found all of them worked better than a placebo. In other words, when study participants took medication, they… and the researchers conducting the studies, did not know who was getting a real drug or a “sugar pill.”

Frankly, the actual medications were not cure-alls. They didn’t fix everyone who was suffering from depression, and those who were helped weren’t miraculously happy and 100% free of symptoms.

RELATED: Depression On The Rise Among Young Teens, Study Finds

The drugs were termed “modestly” effective overall, and researchers said that people suffering from depression need to make sure they are eating well, exercising, and in many cases, getting counselling or other supportive therapy.

The key point to come out of this research is that everyone should recognize that clinical depression is an actual medical disorder, just like diabetes and high blood pressure, and should treated as such. Meaning lifestyle changes, medication if appropriate, and any other measures that can help the condition. It is NOT simply a case of “being in the dumps” and”needing to pull yourself together.”

Depression is a result of actual changes in brain chemistry that often responds to these medications, which work by restoring the balance of hormones that help control mood and emotion.

An imbalance in these chemicals is what triggers problems with sleep, eating, energy, desire and enjoyment.

Not only did the analysis find that all of the meds worked better than placebo, it found some worked better than others, and that some were tolerated better than others.

Although each person and situation is different, here’s an abbreviated list of what worked how:

Most effective:


Least effective:


Best tolerated:


Less well-tolerated:


Once again, each person is different. And what works best for someone else might not work best for you, and vise-versa. Often, it’s a matter of trial and error, and continue to try until finding the mediation that’s best for you. The point, however, is this: as a group these drugs do help, a least in the short term, and should be considered an effective way-to-go for those suffering from depression.

LINK: Read The Study

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida



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