Kas Thomas points out in today's lesson that modern drug trials for antidepressants seldom take into account the fact that people with depression often get better on their own.
And yet, many depressed patients recover, with or without medical intervention, because that's the nature of the illness. We see this all the time with milder forms of depression. For instance, seasonal affective disorder disappears with the light of spring. But what about episodes of major depression?
Researchers in the Netherlands found that the overwhelming majority of patients recovered from major depressive episodes regardless of treatment.
Thomas writes: "It's commonly assumed that people who get better on placebo, in drug trials, are experiencing the placebo effect when in reality a certain number of people just get better on their own even without placebo. Hence, the placebo effect is almost certainly overstated."