As I've discussed a few times here, this is the worst of times for antidepressants and other psychiatric medications; considering questionable efficacy and likely side effects, their popular esteem is at a low ebb. This makes them...a great deal like various alternative medicine treatments that remain highly popular and widely used (and paid for) despite the disdain of evidence-based medical critics.
In The Atlantic David H. Freedman discusses the persistent popularity of alternative medicine and its unlikely cohabitation with conventional research even at the Mayo Clinic and other hallowed institutions. He points out that while medicine made its reputation in the first half of the twentieth century with the significant (if not complete) conquest of infectious disease, its efforts to extend its domain to the kinds of chronic diseases that plague us today (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease) have been frankly disappointing. What, exactly, has medicine done for us lately?
Psychotherapy and psychiatric medication have been targets of critical and cultural derision on the part of many for decades, yet millions of patients seem to derive some kind of healing experience from the pill or the couch, as the case (and the personal inclination) may be. The same could be said of the masses flocking to chiropractors, homeopaths, and, yes, acupuncturists in defiance of the conventional medical wisdom. We spend years in medical school learning about physiology, when practically speaking, healing arguably has more to do with constructing a healing ritual than with one's board scores. The "chemical imbalance," absurdly oversimplified though we hold it to be, may be like the acupuncturist's "lines of force," a necessary if fictional semantic scaffold on which to mount a clinical encounter. The shaman lives!