A study of the effectiveness of antidepressants revealed “that most (if not all) of the benefits are due to the placebo effect” and that this fact was “hidden by drug companies.” Further, ” Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressants may induce a biological vulnerability making people more likely to become depressed in the future.”

When he began a new research project on antidepressants and placebos (a “meta-analysis” of a large number of published studies), practicing psychotherapist and research psychologist Kirsch was surprised to uncover evidence that inadequate supervision by the FDA had allowed pharmaceutical companies to cherry-pick test results for publication and submission to the feds, suppressing unwanted outcomes. Further, apparent evidence of active drugs’ effectiveness when compared to placebos could often be attributed to patients correctly guessing which group they were in based on the side effects (or the lack thereof) they had come to expect in conjunction with anti-depressants.

When his results were published in early 2008, Kirsch was surprised to find himself and his research the subject of front page newspaper stories, TV and radio coverage, and a vigorous debate in the medical community that continues to this day. Writing with a broad audience in mind, Kirsch expands on this important topic in a lively style with clear, cogent explanations of the science involved, and many examples of the differences between solid and flawed research. The result is a fascinating book with broad implications for science policy.