First two paragraphs read: "Dear Dr. Alasko: All my siblings take various medication and when my oldest child had a difficult time in college, they insisted I get her on antidepressants. I refused because when I took antidepressants a few years ago, they didn't help that much and made me feel strange. I've read that they don't work as well as the drug companies say they do. What's your opinion?"
"By the way, after a few months, my daughter worked through her problems on her own."
The power of the placebo effectThe Monterey County Herald
Article Last Updated: 04/13/2008 02:27:38 AM PDT
Dear Dr. Alasko: All my siblings take various medication and when my oldest child had a difficult time in college, they insisted I get her on antidepressants. I refused because when I took antidepressants a few years ago, they didn't help that much and made me feel strange. I've read that they don't work as well as the drug companies say they do. What's your opinion?
By the way, after a few months, my daughter worked through her problems on her own.
Dear Reader: You've hit on an extremely controversial issue: the effectiveness of mood altering medications. More and more studies are examining the "placebo effect" and we're learning it has more power than we want to accept. A placebo is the "sugar pill" given to participants in a study to test the effectiveness of the actual drug. No one is supposed to know which pill is the real one, not even the researchers. The slightest suggestion that the pill is a "sugar pill" can affect the outcome of a study. The power of suggestion, both negative and positive, is very strong.
Yes, recent studies once again point out that, except in severe cases, you might as well spend $150 on sugar pills. Amazingly, the placebo effect extends even to price. Often buying your favorite med at generic prices lessens its effectiveness because you "believe" it's weaker. Believing that you've got the real thing makes a big difference in its effectiveness.
How can that be possible? Are we that susceptible to mere suggestion? Yes.
good news. It's helpful to know that your mind is astoundingly powerful in determining how well you feel. The mind's power also extends to how smart you think you are, how physically attractive and charming you believe yourself to be, how capable of dealing with problems ... just about everything. Believe it or not, if you think you're attractive, you will be!
But that's not wonderful news to corporations that spend billions convincing you that every problem can be solved either with the aid of a pharmaceutical or something you buy.
So helping your daughter work through her college difficulty without immediate recourse to a medication is far more helpful to her than learning she needs medication to cope.
Caution: I'm not saying all mood-altering drugs are useless. But the evidence cannot be denied that except in some severe cases, personal perseverance and using one's own resources can prove more effective, especially in the long run. Confronting and overcoming an obstacle, whether it's emotional, financial, occupational or spiritual, contributes to your long-term learning. By the way, the most effective long-term antidote to "depression" is exercise and useful activities.
Here's a universal "placebo" that's guaranteed to work: "I have sufficient strength and perseverance to overcome my problems." And, "My resources and abilities are my greatest asset." Repeat three times a day, every day for the rest of your life. It's the world's most cost-effective therapy with only positive side effects.
Carl Alasko is a licensed marriage and family therapist with a private practice in Pacific Grove. Write to Alasko c/o The Monterey County Herald, P.O. Box 271, Monterey 93942, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.