by Julie Carlsen
In recent years, society has seen an incredible leap in science and medicine. We’ve evolved from treating wounds with plants and locking up the mentally unstable to curing everything with a pill. While in many cases, these medical advances are incredibly beneficial, sometimes pills seem to be too readily chosen as the answer for every problem; a recent study published in the New York Times discusses alternative therapies for depressed adolescents other than simply drugging the patient up and leaving him be.
Researchers in the article Talk Therapy for Depressed Youth tested 654 clinically depressed twelve – seventeen year olds for a year and examined how different anti-depression mechanisms worked. Patients were either given Prozac, placebo pills, cognitive behavioral therapy (“talk therapy”), or a combination of Prozac and talk therapy. Those taking Prozac or the combination of Prozac and talk therapy were deemed better within twelve weeks, while talk therapy alone was just as ineffective as placebo pills. After nine months, most of the group had shaken off their depression, but those who hadn’t received talk therapy with their Prozac reported sudden suicidal feelings. The mixture of the healing drug with the healing conversations proved to better the person best overall.
by Kelly Long
In a world where illnesses once thought debilitating have become more treatable than ever, the question of whether or not a treatment is available for an affliction like depression has become almost obsolete. The difficulty has shifted to the issue of which drug is best for which patient, and how a balance may be found between treatment and side effects.
Recent government-funded studies, reported in the New York Times, have shown that Celexa, an anti-depressant drug belonging to the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may cause patients to experience suicidal thoughts. Interestingly, those same suicidal thoughts tended to be found in patients who did not actually attempt suicide, while it has been noted that the one patient in the study that did actually attempt suicide vehemently denied any thoughts of suicide.
Unsurprisingly, the physiology of the connection may be traced to the brain. Throughout the course of the study, two out of the sixty-eight genetic markers studied were noteworthy, as 36 percent of the subjects in possession of the markers experienced suicidal thoughts after taking Celexa. The markers coded for an amino acid called glutamate, which, aside from working as a natural antidepressant by activating neurons, is involved with learning and memory in the brain. Although the results of the tests were inconclusive, they raise the serious question of how treatment can be achieved without a flurry of undesirable (and sometimes dangerous) side effects. It is also remarkable to think that, with time and more research, a genetic test may be developed that is capable of pinpointing exactly which depression treatment is best for each patient.
[Editor's note: Interested readers may also want to look at this post about why the added caution around SSRIs also causes problems.]
Carey, Benedict. (2007 September 28). Genes Tied to Bad Reactions to Antidepressant Drug. New York Times. Retrieved September 30, 2007, from http://www.nytimes.com.