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Mindfulness therapy compared to drugs for depression treatment

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Mindfulness therapy could replace drugs for depression treatment

In a first study published in the journal Lancet researchers have found mindfulness therapy, also known as cognitive behavioral therapy to be as effective as antidepressant medications that can often have side effects that are intolerable.


The study is the first of a kind comparing drug therapy with mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) as an option for people who don't want to take antidepressants long-term.

Cognitive therapy as effective as antidepressants

The investigation showed the therapy that aims to help change the way a person thinks to avoid negative thoughts and destructive behaviors.

For the study researchers followed 424 people who received either mindfulness-based cognitive therapy or antidepressants.

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The results showed the same outcome between people taking drugs and those receiving cognitive therapy

Willem Kuyken, lead author and Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford in the UK said in a press release: "Depression is a recurrent disorder. Without ongoing treatment, as many as four out of five people with depression relapse at some point."

Participants receiving cognitive behavioral therapy were assigned to groups, making the intervention lower cost compared to individual therapy.

Professor Sarah Byford, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London, UK who co-authored the study said there was no difference in cost between anti-depressant drugs compared to MCBT.

The study shows mindfulness therapy to be just as effective as antidepressant medications that can have side effects including weight gain, worsening depression, suicidal thoughts, nausea, dizziness, insomnia and more.

According to background information from the study authors only one-third of patients given antidepressants respond to the drugs making MCBT an option for a non-drug depression treatment.