A recent study on depression treatments has revealed something that is sure to get the attention of every patient taking antidepressants as well as healthcare professionals. According to the results of a new clinical trial that focused on depression treatment, placebos beat out both antidepressants and talk therapy at treating the symptoms.

This new study also showed that a patient’s gender and race may play a role in determining who better benefits from this information. The results of this study were published on November 29 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. This study comes on the heels of earlier research which showed that antidepressant medications like Paxil may not be worth the risks involved in taking them and that the thousands of dollars spent on talk therapy may be better spent someplace else.

For this most recent study, researchers decided to select at random 156 patients who were suffering from major depression to take either a daily dose of sertraline for a period of 16 weeks, a placebo or talk therapy. What they discovered was that the patients taking the antidepressants had a 31 percent response rate; the talk therapy patients had a 28 percent response rate and the placebo group had a 24 percent response rate.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr. Jacques P. Barber, the dean of the Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, said, “I was surprised by the results. They weren’t what I’d expected.”

Barber added that while the study showed that placebos had this type of success rate in comparison to the antidepressants and talk therapy, it didn’t mean that the other treatments didn’t have their values. For example, since some patients in the placebo group may actually believe that they are getting treatment for their depression, the benefits of the pills may be psychosomatic in terms of making them feel better.

This study may go a long way to help patients choose what type of medications to take for their depression. Doctors may benefit from prescribing placebos over harsh treatments like antidepressants, which expose patients to serious adverse side effects, as a trial before switching patients to antidepressants. Drugs like Paxil, while they can be effective for some, can also cause patients to suffer from suicidal or homicidal thoughts and behavior. It can also cause birth defects in babies whose mothers take the drugs while pregnant. For these reasons alone, doctors should consider this type of research before making rush decisions while treating depressed patients.