Depression Treatment in 24 Hours Possible, Study Says

DepressionRear view of person staring out at a lake affects almost 15 million adults each year, but treatment is not always effective. Some people experiencing depression avoid treatment, concerned about the costs of new drugs and long-term therapy. Others find that antidepressants either do not work for them or produce side effects almost as serious as the symptoms of depression. Researchers from the University of Maryland say, however, they may have discovered a faster, more effective way to treat depression.

Is GABA the Key to Effective Depression Treatment?

Most researchers who study depression agree that the condition is somehow related to problems with the brain’s neurotransmitters. When these chemicals, which carry messages across a nerve synapse, do not work effectively or are not present in sufficiently high quantities, the chemical messages associated with motivation, reward, and joy are less effective.

Most antidepressants target serotonin, a chemical thought to be associated with mood and motivation, but drugs that target serotonin often take time to work. Serotonin is also associated with bodily functions, which means that drugs that target serotonin may affect parts of the body other than the brain, leading to side effects such as sexual dysfunction, disruption of sleep patterns, apathy, and dizziness.

The University of Maryland team argues that research should focus on GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This theory of depression emphasizes the role of excitatory messages in the brain. When those messages are not strong enough, depression may be the result. Thus, drugs that reduce the inhibitory power of GABA could also reduce depression. These compounds, called GABA-NAMs, target only the portions of the brain relevant to mood, producing fewer side effects.

A New Type of Antidepressant

To explore the power of GABA-NAMs to affect mood, researchers exposed rats to chronic stress. This exposure caused depression-like symptoms in the rats, but the rats that took GABA-NAMs experienced a decrease in one of depression’s key symptoms: anhedonia, the inability to feel joy. Researchers achieved these results in less than 24 hours. The scientists found that, as expected, GABA-NAMs increased the strength of excitatory brain signals. In animals who did not have symptoms of depression, the drugs produced no results at all, indicating that the compound is not likely to have an adverse effect.

Though rats’ brains are similar to humans, not all studies of rats have produced the same results in humans. Nevertheless, the researchers say that these results offer immense promise for future trials on humans. If these drugs prove safe and effective in human trials, they could eventually revolutionize depression treatment.

References:

  1. Depression statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_statistics_depression
  2. Feller, S. (2015, July 13). New compound may treat depression quickly, with few side effects. Retrieved from http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2015/07/13/New-compound-may-treat-depression-quickly-with-few-side-effects/3671436809313

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  • Naomi

    Naomi

    July 16th, 2015 at 11:56 AM

    Revolutionary indeed!

  • Dara

    Dara

    July 17th, 2015 at 2:23 PM

    They could revolutionize treatment for depression in a very significant way, I agree, but I would not try to make too little out of this issue that for so many people is such a huge and crushing thing. Just because there is this one thing that could do this, and I do think that a lot of people would jump at that opportunity, there is still a great deal of thought that has to go into this as well as healing and learning to live with actually feeling well again. I think that this has to be more of a multi prong approach to get the most benefit for those hwo struggle with depression.

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