For almost half a century, patients suffering from severe depressive and anxiety disorders have relied on antidepressants for relief. But to any depression sufferer, finding the right medication is the hardest part of drug therapy. Not every drug works the same and figuring out what prescription interacts correctly with the body can take months to years.
Luckily, we’re in 2016, a year in which psychopharmacology has advanced dramatically – and this notion echoes with antidepressants. A new study published in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA aimed to predict whether or not an antidepressant would work in the long term.
According to Dr. Andrew Leuchter, the lead author of the study, researchers were able to predict the outcome of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant drug Lexapro, using brain wave recordings. Additionally, researchers were able to analyze electroencephalogram recordings to foresee if recovery or relapse from depressive episodes were to occur.
“Knowing whether a medication is going to work could eliminate weeks of waiting for the patient, and get them on effective treatment more quickly,” Dr. Leuchter said.
Lexapro, like other antidepressants, works by increasing the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for mood, energy, and behavior. However, serotonin is also able to stabilize slow and fast brain waves caused by a chemical reaction.
In the study, researchers gathered data from 194 clinically depressed patients, aged 18 to 70 years old. Participants were broken down into three groups: two comprised of 70 and 76 patients, each treated with Lexapro for seven weeks, and the third group of 48 patients treated with a placebo.
“The researchers tested whether brain wave recordings in the first week of treatment would show that the antidepressant (as compared with a placebo) corrected the frequency imbalance – and predict a beneficial effect of medication on an individual’s depression after seven weeks of treatment,” UCLA researchers stated.
Before taking any drugs, all patients received an electroencephalogram and a second one after they completed one full week of treatment or placebo. It was immediately obvious that after only one week of therapy with Lexapro, brain wave recordings began having a distinct pattern compared to patients who took a placebo.
After reviewing numerous brain wave recordings, Dr. Leuchter became convinced that something important was discovered.
“Our biomarker selectively predicted remission with medication, but not placebo. This confirmed that we can differentiate a true, specific response to a drug from a non-specific placebo response. To our knowledge, this is the first time that a biomarker that differentiates placebo remission from drug remission has been reported,” researchers concluded.
Although researchers struck gold by testing Lexapro, more antidepressant drugs are expected to receive new clinical trials, but this time, utilizing brain wave recordings. Researchers hope to improve wait time and save money for patients receiving drug therapy. The testing continues.
10 Fast Facts About Antidepressants
Before taking antidepressants, there are important facts you should know. According to clinical psychologists, if patients would’ve been notified about these deadly risks, the death toll associated with antidepressants would be significantly lower.
1. Do NOT take antidepressants if you’ve taken MAOIs (another class of antidepressants). You MUST wait at least 14 days.
2. Antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.
3. Some antidepressant drugs may cause significant weight gain.
4. The full therapeutic benefit of antidepressants can take up to 6 weeks.
5. Do NOT abruptly discontinue antidepressants without advising your doctor.
6. NEVER mix antidepressant drugs with the opioid painkiller Tramadol.
7. Although few antidepressants can treat sexual disorders, others can cause sexual dysfunction.
8. If you have a sudden high fever and see hallucinations, get medical attention right away – you may have Serotonin Syndrome.
9. You should NEVER mix your antidepressant medication with other antidepressants.
10. If one drug does not work for you, don’t stress, there are plenty others to try.
Featured photo credit: Lea Suzuki via sfgate.com