Dr. Kirsch is a noted expert on the placebo effect, and the originator of response expectancy theory, one of the main theoretical frameworks for understanding the placebo effect.
In recent years, Kirsch has turned his attention to the question of the efficacy of psychoactive medications, in particular antidepressants. In his latest book, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth (Basic Books, 2010), he argues that there is no good evidence that antidepressants are more effective at relieving the symptoms of clinical depression than active placebos. (An “active placebo” is one that has detectable side effects, like dry mouth or nausea, but no therapeutic physiological activity.)
To read an interesting interview with Dr. Kirsch, entitled “Do Antidepressants Work?,” go here.
For a fascinating and disturbing review of the state of modern psychiatry in general, including reflection on Kirsch’s book, see this essay, entitled “The Epidemic of Mental Illness: Why?,” by Marcia Angell, M.D., Senior Lecturer at Harvard Medical School and former Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
For a related TBS blog, go here.