Depression affects nearly 19 million people in the United States every year. Only half of those who are diagnosed ever receive treatment for their symptoms. The latest trend for many clinicians is to prescribe not only an initial anti-depressant, but to add a second and sometimes third line of defense immediately to combat extreme depressive symptoms. However, new research suggests that these efforts may not benefit the client. In fact, they may only cause to increase the expense to the client and elevate the risk for further side effects. Dr. Madhukar H. Trivedi, professor of psychiatry and chief of the Division of Mood Disorders at UT Southwestern and principal investigator of the study said, “Clinicians should not rush to prescribe combinations of antidepressant medications as first-line treatment for patients with major depression.”
The study, conducted by the same researchers who conducted the pre-eminent study on depression, the Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression, or STAR*D, study, found that clients taking one medication responded similarly to those who were taking two different anti-depressants. At both the 12-week point and again at the seven-month mark, the results remained the same. “The clinical implications are very clear – the extra cost and burden of two medications is not worthwhile as a first treatment step,” Said Dr.Trivedi.
Although only 58 percent of clients respond at all to anti-depressants alone, the success rate is much higher for those who use medication in combination with other therapies. Depression can often manifest with debilitating symptoms that cause clients to lose time from work, lose interest in normal activities, and can interfere with social and intimate relationships. The cumulative cost of depression exceeds $83 billion annually in lost productivity, medical and mental health expenses. In a related article, Dr. Trivedi commented that in order to see improved results, more studies must be conducted to examine the biological indicators for depression.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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