The Epidemic of Mental Illness

In the NY Times book review, Marcia Angell reviews 3 new books on the topic of mental illness and the existing medical treatments. In one of the books, the author goes so far as to claim

 the relatively small difference between drugs and placebos might not be a real drug effect at all. Instead, it might be an enhanced placebo effect, produced by the fact that some patients have broken [the] blind and have come to realize whether they were given drug or placebo. If this is the case, then there is no real antidepressant drug effect at all. Rather than comparing placebo to drug, we have been comparing “regular” placebos to “extra-strength” placebos.

I think just as with advances in neuroscience based on increasing reliance on fMRI technology (including forays into fields like neuro-economics and so on) all of these claims are no better than theoretical conjectures at this point. However, the big difference between neuroscience and treatment for depression/anxiety/mental illness is that these treatments have real and sustained consequences for patients.