Experience is the best teacher

2000 years have passed since Cicero said that: “experience is the best teacher” [Usus magister est optimus]

This is the current dictionary definition of experience:

Experience - dictionary definition

As a doctor, scientist, and artist I have come to consider experience from many stances.  I welcome every view from every stance.

A recent publication of a meta-analysis on antidepressant prescribing has encouraged  a wider sharing of experience. My sense of this wide-ranging discourse is that we all share a determination to ease suffering.

Lancet study on antidepressants, Feb 2018 - title

Following the publication and reporting of this meta-analysis, some senior colleagues have made, or shared public comments, that invoke war-like or shaming terms:

“All in all it has been a bad few days for the anti-medication cult and their followers”

“It feels like there is a war on antidepressants at the moment”

Some of my senior colleagues, including the President of my College, have publicly shared this:

Pill-Shaming Bingo card


Fact: The Cipriani Lancet meta-analysis of antidepressants efficacy, was based on (an average) of 8 weeks study (experience).


Almost a decade ago. I asked Professor Ian C. Reid: “What is the ‘appropriate” duration of antidepressant treatment?” After a number of communications, Professor Reid replied:

Not sure what your issue is

Ian Reid was quite brilliant. I trained in psychiatry with Ian. I was surprised to find how difficult he found my question.

A few years later this letter was published in the BMJ:

Increased antidepressant prescribing shows correction of inadequate duration of treatment, BMJ, Jan 2014


My “issue”:  that science must carefully listen and consider all experience. Otherwise it is no longer science and “data” will be meaningless. Cicero understood this 2000 years ago. I worry that some Professors of today may not.

2 Replies to “Experience is the best teacher”

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