Publication Date

Spring 5-2023


School of Health Sciences


major depressive disorder, antidepressants, efficacy


Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry and Psychology


The prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) in the U.S. has been significantly on the rise between 2015 and 2020, with adolescents and young adults (ages 18-34) contributing the most to this increase (Goodwin et al., 2022). The trend represents a disturbing downturn in the mental health of U.S. adults and warrants close attention and consideration. As the case number of MDD has continuously risen in the recent past, medical practitioners have been searching for more effective solutions. The techniques for combating the symptoms and curing the disease have varied, but one option consistently respected throughout the literature has been antidepressant medication (ADM). Not only are ADMs a commonly administered treatment for MDD, but among certain demographics, particularly ages 12-17, prescription rates have more than doubled over the course of twenty years. With such high prescription rates, the effectiveness of ADMs would naturally be assumed to be very strong. However, recent controversy has called into question the method of action of prominent ADMs and has cast doubt on their efficacy as a treatment option for MDD. Psychologist Irving Kirsch is largely credited with initiating and popularizing the controversy surrounding the drugs, claiming that antidepressants are no more effective than the placebo against which they are evaluated (Chen et al., 2023). If ADMs were to demonstrate clinically insignificant effects on symptoms of MDD, or if the method of action of these drugs were to deviate from that which was initially proposed, the implications on patients and the psychological community would be drastic. The purposes of this review are to evaluate the extent to which ADMs are effective in the treatment of MDD, define the method of action of various ADMs, account for the adverse effects commonly experienced by those administered ADMs, and consider alternative treatments if these prove insufficient.