Do antidepressants actually work, or are they just glorified dummy pills? How can we tell one way or the other?
In Ordinarily Well , the celebrated psychiatrist and author Peter D. Kramer addresses the growing mistrust of antidepressants among the medical establishment and the broader public by taking the long view. He charts the history of the drugs' development and the research that tests their worth, from the Swiss psychiatrist Roland Kuhn's pioneering midcentury discovery of imipramine's antidepressant properties to recent controversial studies suggesting that medications like Prozac and Paxil may be no better than placebos in alleviating symptoms. He unpacks the complex "inside baseball" of psychiatry-statistics-and reveals the fascinating ways that clinical studies and their results can be combined, manipulated, and skewed toward a desired conclusion. All the while, Kramer never loses sight of the patients themselves. He writes with deep empathy about his own clinical encounters over the decades as he weighed treatments, analyzed trial results, and considered the idiosyncrasies each case presented. As Kramer sees it, we must respect human complexity and the value of psychotherapy without denying the truth-that depression is a serious and destructive illness that demands the most effective treatment available.
Reviews and Endorsements:
"[Kramer] has done something very valuable . . . His dissections of the most incendiary studies are careful, and his conclusions-that they overestimate placebo effects and underestimate the potency of antidepressants-will invite a reckoning of some kind." -Jennifer Senior, The New York Times
"Kramer reaches into his own practice and into the scientific literature-amply documented here-to show that the charge of ineffectiveness is false. Antidepressants, he says, have given many patients back their lives, and some of these anecdotes are quite moving . . . [Kramer] comes across as modest and self-deprecatory, and giants such as Gerald Klerman, the onetime dean of American psychiatry, spring to life in these pages." -Edward Shorter, The Washington Post
About the Author:
Peter D. Kramer is a psychiatrist, writer, and Brown medical school professor. Among his books are Against Depression , Should You Leave? , and the New York Times bestseller Listening to Prozac . His articles and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times , The Washington Post , Slate , and elsewhere.