Future Treatments for Depression
Depression is a mental illness that has both mental and physical symptoms. These include a loss of interest in daily activities, crying spells for no reason and suicidal thoughts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2006, 15.7 percent of the United States (U.S.) population reported being told by a healthcare provider, at some point in their lives, that they had depression. Future treatments for depression may be more personalized and accurate, allowing sufferers to feel better faster, with fewer side effects.
Treatments for depression can be a trial and error process, with the outcome of treatment with a specific medication being unpredictable. Sciencedaily.com discusses a 2007 study in biological psychiatry by Cambridge University, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain activity before, during and after antidepressant treatment.
Professor Ed Bullmore explained that brain scanning can predict how fast patients' symptoms will improve with antidepressants before they start treatment. The study is evidence that in the future, treatment for depression may be able to be individualized.
The Mayo Clinic's research magazine, "Discovery's Edge," reports on research in the field of pharmacogenetics, the science of determining how a person's genetic makeup will affect how he reacts to drugs. Dr. David Mrazek has developed a test called p450 microarray analysis, which can determine whether a patient has a gene that will affect how his metabolism reacts with many psychiatric drugs.
Knowing how a patient will metabolize a particular drug or drug category allows the patient's doctor to know if those drugs will be effective for that patient. Treatment can be specifically tailored for the patient.
Targeting the Brain
In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) as a treatment for depressed patients in whom traditional treatments have failed. Healthyplace.com, "New Depression Treatment, New Hope" explains that in TMS, an electrical current passes through a hand-held wire coil that a doctor moves over the patient's scalp.
The electrical current makes a magnetic pulse, which passes straight through the patient's scalp and stimulates nerve cells in the brain.
Clinical trials of TMS, done on patients for whom at least one depression treatment had already failed, demonstrated 50 percent greater symptom improvement in patients compared to those who were treated with a fake device.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation does not have the typical symptoms of antidepressants, such as weight gain, sexual problems, grogginess or dry mouth; the most common side effects are scalp pain or discomfort, which improved after the first week, according to Medpagetoday.com.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Patients with mild to moderate depression may find benefit in the future from studies being done on herbs, supplements and complements to Western medicine, such as acupuncture.
"Alternative Medicine in the Treatment of Anxiety and Depression: Depression," published in Current Opinions in Psychiatry, summarizes that there is increasing data for using Omega-3 fatty-acid supplements. According to the article, controlled trials and open studies have suggested that supplementation with doses of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that are about five times higher than the standard dietary intake in the U.S., may have antidepressant or mood-stabilizing effects.
Prozac is one of the oldest and most commonly prescribed medications for depression. A 2009 study, "Homeopathic Individualized Q-potencies versus Fluoxetine for Moderate to Severe Depression: Double-blind, Randomized Non-inferiority Trial" done in Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil, compared Prozac and an individualized homeopathic remedy in patients with moderate to severe depression. The study did not find any significant difference in response or remission rates between groups.
Both groups showed similar side-effect rates, although more patients being treated with Prozac reported negative side effects and tended to interrupt treatment because of them.
These studies are showing the promise of some natural treatments in the future, once more studies are completed.