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New treatments for depression offer hope

Teresa Tanoos's picture
New treatments for depression show promise

If you’ve ever suffered from depression, you know how debilitating it can be, but you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 7 percent of adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with depression, costing employers anywhere between $17 billion to $44 billion as a result.

Then there are those who never get diagnosed because they never seek treatment for their depression – even though there are plenty of treatments available today that have been very successful in combating its symptoms.

Some of the treatments for depression that have proven to be effective include a wide variety of therapies, ranging from talk therapy and anti-depressant medications, to meditation and walking in the park.

The key to any successful treatment, however, requires patience because it can take 4 to 6 weeks for the anti-depressants to kick in. It also takes time to tweak dosages or otherwise switch to a different-acting anti-depressant if the first one was not effective.

But the wait can be well worth it, says Debra Graham, a mother of four from Indianapolis who suffered depression for years following the birth of her first child in 2002.

“I reached a point where I couldn’t stand the pain of nothingness any longer,” she said. “Wallowing in depression is like muddling through life half-dead.”

Graham finally consulted with a psychiatrist, who prescribed an anti-depressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI. Popular brands of SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil.

While it took a few weeks for the full effect of the anti-depressant to relieve Graham’s depression, she said that she could tell within a few days that something was working.

“It was as if someone lifted the veil from my eyes, and all of a sudden I could see the beauty in life that the depression previously blinded me to,” she said.

Graham is not alone in her experience, although some depressed patients have to wait longer before seeing results from anti-depressant therapy.

George Kancor, a young attorney from Bloomington, Indiana, said the first two anti-depressants he tried only made him feel worse due to the side effects.

“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat. The side effects just made me feel like I’d had way too much coffee, I was just so anxious all the time, and I couldn’t stand it,” he said.

Thankfully, his psychiatrist switched him to an altogether different kind of anti-depressant, known for smoothing out the rough edges of anxiety in people suffering from it. His psychiatrist also added Trazadone, another antidepressant that induces sleep when taken shortly before bedtime.

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“It took months to find the right mix of meds that worked for me, but I’m glad I held out because I managed to finally find relief from my misery,” Kancor said.

Depression leaves its victims feeling constantly tired, unmotivated, uninterested in things they formally enjoyed and hopeless that things will ever improve. At its worst, it can lead to suicidal thoughts or actually carrying out the act of suicide.

But good news exists for depression, as much progress has been made, not just in treating it, but in understanding the underlying dynamics that contribute to the condition.

As a result, there are a variety of new treatments for depression that are on the horizon, including the following:

Vortioxetine – The FDA has approved this variant on serotonin reuptake inhibitors for adults suffering from major depressive disorder. Sold under the brand, Brintellix, research indicates the drug may also help to improve memory in addition to its anti-depressant properties.

Ketamine – Used as an anesthetic in human and veterinary medicine, Ketamine has been found to work quickly at reducing the symptoms of depression. In one study, a single intravenous dose of Ketamine relieved symptoms of depression in more than half of 72 depressed patients. Ketamine also offers hope to treatment-resistant patients who have previously failed to respond to anti-depressant therapy, as the drug was found to be especially effective at rapidly reducing depressive symptoms in such patients. Moreover, a single dose of Ketamine not only worked rapidly to relieve depression, but the results lasted up to 5 days or more. The drug has not yet been approved by the FDA, but according to experts from the National Institute of Mental Health, it’s expected to be on the market by 2017.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) – TMS involves a series of brief magnetic pulses to the brain, which are administered through an electromagnetic coil adjacent to a patient's scalp. The pulses stimulate certain circuits in the brain that are underactive depressed patients. The goal of TMS is to activate these targeted areas of the brain to alleviate depressive symptoms and restore the brain to normal functioning. TMS is especially helpful for patients who do not respond to medication, and it can be performed on both an outpatient and inpatient basis.

Cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) – CES administers small electric pulses across a patient’s head using a portable, battery-powered device that can be used at home. Approved by the FDA, CES provides relief from symptoms of insomnia, anxiety and depression. It is also approved for treating chronic pain.

Deep brain stimulation – Unlike other brain stimulation treatments, deep brain stimulation involves the surgical placement of a battery-operated neuro-stimulator, which is used to treat a variety of neurological symptoms. The implant is similar to a pacemaker, but instead of stimulating the heart muscle, it stimulates targeted areas of the brain. It is especially effective for patients with Parkinson’s disease, but is currently being tested for its effectiveness in treating depression.

In the meantime, there are more natural ways to battle depression. Today, JayMac Pharmaceuticals announced the introduction of EnLyte with Delta Folate, which they say is the first advanced generation folate prescription containing a combination of three folates and B-vitamin metabolites, all of which the company says have been found effective in the dietary management and treatment of mild, moderate, and severe depression.

Other natural treatments for depression that have long withstood the test of time include regular exercise, including long walks in green areas, such as parks, which studies have shown help clear the mind and lift mood for some people. Eating nutritious foods can also help, as can the Mediterranean Diet, which includes lots of fish, fruits and vegetables with limited amounts of meat and dairy.

However, if you find yourself feeling down or depressed for a period of longer than 2 weeks without any relief, it's important to consult with your doctor because you don't have to suffer needlessly. There are many available treatments for depression that have been proven to work for most patients, and some have minimal side effects.

Again, time and patience are the key to finding the best possible treatment for you. There's nothing wrong with feeling depressed either because it may very well be due to a physical or biochemical unbalance in your body. So don't be afraid to admit you’re depressed because, like diabetes or any other disease, depression is a condition that can be safely treated through medications or more natural means.

1. Psych Central, Depression: New Medications On The Horizon, Tartakovsky, M., retrieved February 4, 2014.
2. National Institute of Mental Health, Introduction: Mental Health Medications
3. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, What is Depression?
4. Press Release: JayMac Pharmaceuticals Introduces EnLyte with Delta Folate: A Safe, Natural, & Complete Prescription Therapy For Depression, February 4, 2014.