Advances in Depression Treatment

Thanks to research advances over the past 30 years, depression is highly treatable. An estimated 80% of patients experience improvement in symptoms within four to six weeks of beginning treatment with an antidepressant drug. Cognitive therapy, which teaches patients to control negative thoughts and the depressed emotions they triggered, is also effective in relieving symptoms.

Today's antidepressants target the storage, release and metabolism of neurotransmitters in various ways. Early antidepressants, like MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) and tricyclic drugs targeted serotonin and/or norepinephrine.

Newer antidepressants include SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Zoloft and Paxil) and SNRIs (serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, such as Cymbalta and Pristiq) have fewer side effects than earlier drugs. However, recent findings have raised concerns about increased risks for suicide in some patients, particularly in adolescents and children, who take some types of antidepressant drugs.

Despite effective treatment, more than half of people suffering from depression never seek therapy. Among patients treated, an estimated 50% stop taking their medication and suffer recurrences. Recent studies suggest that the most effective therapy combines medicine with psychotherapy, like cognitive therapy, and includes ongoing care to support patients in the context of their relationships and work lives.

The effort to increase awareness and understanding is one of the greatest challenges in advancing the treatment of depression.  A number of organizations offer information and support, including the National Institutes of Mental Health, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, and Mental Health America.

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. Statistics on Depression   
Cowen and Company, Therapeutic Categories Outlook 2012

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