Nutritional Supplement ALC Improves Depression

March 26, 2018 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

vitamin

A meta-analysis of 12 studies suggests that the nutrient acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC), when taken as a nutritional supplement, has antidepressant effects. The meta-analysis by researcher Nicola Veronese and colleagues appeared in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2017. Veronese and colleagues found that in nine randomized controlled trials, ALC reduced depressive symptoms significantly compared to placebo. In three randomized controlled trials that compared ALC with established antidepressants, ALC showed similar effectiveness at reducing depressive symptoms while producing 79% fewer side effects. Doses of ALC ranged from 1 to 4 grams per day, and higher doses led to greater improvement.

In the comparisons with antidepressants, the other treatments included fluoxetine (Prozac), duloxetine (Cymbalta), and amisulpride (which is not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration).

Low ALC has been linked to depression. According to Veronese and colleagues, ALC deficiency can dysregulate the transport of fatty acids across the inner membrane of mitochondria. The researchers suggest several ways that ALC might contribute to an improvement in depression. One is that is seems to promote neuroplasticity in cerebral regions implicated in depression, such as the hippocampus. It could also work by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which protects neurons and is important for learning and memory. ALC decreases release of the neurotransmitter glutamate by increasing the production of the inhibitory metabotrophic glutamate receptor (mGluR-2) on presynaptic glutamate neurons . Another way ALC might work is by normalizing lipid metabolism. Or it could modulate neurotransmitters, increasing serotonin and dopamine and protecting against stress.

In the meta-analysis, ALC produced more improvement in older patients than in younger ones. The researchers stressed the need for better treatments for older people, which may experience falls, cardiovascular disease, or increased mortality from antidepressants.

ALC also seems to improve pain syndromes, making it a good option for patients with both depression and pain symptoms.

Veronese and colleagues cited another meta-analysis that found that taking ALC in addition to an antidepressant led to lower rates of adverse events than the antidepressants alone, which helped patients adhere to their drug regimen.

Taking SSRI Antidepressants May Increase Stroke Risk

December 6, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

pill bottleA Taiwanese study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2017 finds that taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants can increase risk of stroke. The study by Chin-Hong Chan and colleagues analyzed eight years of data from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database, comparing people who had taken SSRIs for at least two consecutive months to those who had not. First onset strokes were more common among people who had taken SSRIs, and the higher stroke rates in this group persisted for three years after exposure.

Ischemic strokes (which occur when a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain is obstructed) were more common than hemorrhagic strokes (which occur when a weak blood vessel ruptures). Younger adult participants exposed to SSRIs were more likely to have strokes, while people older than 65 saw only a slight increase in stroke risk from taking SSRIs. More strokes occurred during the first three years of SSRI treatment than later in treatment.

Chan and colleagues suggest that these strokes are caused by cerebral microbleeding or by overcorrection of hemostasis, the process by which the body slows or stops bleeding by constricting blood vessels and coagulating blood.

Best Antidepressants for Post-Stroke Depression

December 4, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

strokeA recent meta-analysis in the journal BMJ Open analyzes the efficacy and tolerability of 10 different antidepressants given to treat depression following a stroke. The meta-analysis incorporated data from 12 trials and a total of 707 participants. Reboxetine was the most effective antidepressant, followed by paroxetine, doxepin, and duloxetine. Sertraline, fluoxetine, and nefiracetam failed to outperform placebo in the treatment of post-stroke depression.

In terms of tolerability, paroxetine had the least side effects and led to significantly fewer discontinuations than doxepin, citalopram, and fluoxetine. After paroxetine, the most tolerable drugs were sertraline and nortriptyline. The least tolerable drug was citalopram.
Researchers led by Yefei Sun suggested that paroxetine might be the best antidepressant to prescribe after a stroke due to its efficacy and good tolerability. Fluoxetine might be the worst due to its poor efficacy and poor side effects profile.

Editor’s Note: Multiple randomized controlled trials suggest that antidepressants can be helpful for anyone who has a stroke, both to decrease depression and to improve neurological and functional outcomes.  

One Night of Sleep Deprivation Can Rapidly Improve Depression

November 22, 2017 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

sleepy womanOne night of sleep deprivation can bring about rapid improvement in depression symptoms the following day. A 2017 meta-analysis by Elaine M. Boland and colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry summarizes the findings from 66 studies of sleep deprivation for unipolar and bipolar depression and finds that the technique produced a response rate of 45% in randomized controlled studies.

It did not seem to matter whether patients experienced full or partial sleep deprivation, whether they had unipolar or bipolar depression, or whether or not they were taking medication at the time. Age and gender also did not affect the results of the sleep deprivation.

Extending the Effects

While sleep deprivation can rapidly improve depression, the patient often relapses after the next full night of sleep. There are a few things that can prevent relapse or extend the efficacy of the sleep deprivation. The first is lithium, which has extended the antidepressant effects of sleep deprivation in people with bipolar disorder.

The second strategy to prevent relapse is a phase change. This means going to sleep early in the evening the day after sleep deprivation and gradually shifting the sleep schedule back to normal. For example, after an effective night of sleep deprivation, one might go to sleep at 6pm and set their alarm for 2am. Then the next night, they would aim to sleep from 7pm to 3am, the following night 8pm to 4am, etc. until the sleep wake cycle returns to a normal schedule.

A 2002 article by P. Eichhammer and colleagues in the journal Life Sciences suggested that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), electromagnetic stimulation of the scalp over the prefrontal cortex, could help maintain improvement in depression following a night of partial sleep deprivation for up to four days.

Bright light therapy may also help. Read more

Inflammation Linked to Non-Response to Antidepressants

November 17, 2016 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

antidepressant non-response and inflammation

In a symposium on inflammation’s role in psychiatric disorders at the 2016 meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry, researcher Carmine Pariante reviewed the considerable literature indicating that major depression is often associated with measures of inflammation. Depression has been linked to elevated blood levels of the inflammatory proteins interleukin-1, interleukin-6, TNF alpha, and c-reactive protein, with about one-third of depressed patients having an elevated level of at least one of these proteins. People with elevated inflammatory markers are also less likely to respond to traditional antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Pariante reported that in depressed people, interleukin-6 is also elevated in cerebrospinal fluid in addition to blood, suggesting that inflammation in depression extends to the central nervous system. Increased secretion of interleukin-6 has been linked to depressive behaviors in mice exposed to stress.

There is some hope that anti-inflammatory treatments can help patients who do not respond to traditional antidepressant treatment. Some anti-inflammatory medications that may eventually be used to treat depression with inflammation include the COX-1 inhibitor aspirin, the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib (Celebrex), or the antibiotic minocycline. Each of these approaches gained some support in preliminary clinical trials, but it has not yet been established that these anti-inflammatory treatments produce a better response in people with elevated inflammatory markers.

Methylene Blue May Help Bipolar Depression

November 16, 2016 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

methylene blueWe have previously reported on the research by Martin Alda and colleagues that the chemical compound methylene blue had positive effects in patients with bipolar depression. The research was published in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2016.

Now a new article by Ashley M. Feen and colleagues in the Journal of Neurotrauma reports that methylene blue has an antidepressant-like effect in mice with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Methylene blue reduced inflammation and microglia activation in the animals. Methylene blue reduced levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine Il-1b and increased levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine Il-10.

These findings are of particular interest as many patients with classical depression (and no brain injury) have abnormal levels of these inflammatory markers. It remains to be seen whether methylene blue is more helpful in those patients with elevated inflammatory markers and if levels of the markers can predict treatment response or not.

Methylene blue causes urine to turn blue, so low doses of the compound are used as a placebo. Alda and colleagues reported that the active dose 195mg reduced depression and anxiety significantly more than the placebo dose (15mg) in a 13-week crossover study. In that study, methylene blue was added to lamotrigine which had not had a complete enough effect.

In a 1986 study by G.J. Naylor and colleagues in the journal Biological Psychiatry, patients were treated with either 15mg/day or 300mg/day of methylene blue for one year and crossed over to the other dose in the second year. Participants had significantly less depression during the year of taking the active 300mg/day dose.

The FDA has issued a warning about the danger of a serotonin syndrome if methylene blue is combined with serotonin active agents (presumably because it inhibits MAO-A). Symptoms of the serotonin syndrome can include lethargy, confusion, delirium, agitation, aggression, decreased alertness, and coma. Neurological symptoms, such as jerky muscle contractions, loss of speech, muscle tension, and seizures; or autonomic symptoms, such as fever and elevated blood pressure, are also common. Patients should call their doctor if they are taking a serotonergic psychiatric medication and develop any of the above symptoms.

IV Ketamine 2 or 3 Times Per Week Improves Depression

October 12, 2016 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

intravenous ketamine for depression

We have written many times before about intravenous ketamine as a fast-acting antidepressant treatment that can produce results within hours. Unfortunately, these quick results tend to fade within a few days. Current research is focused on possible ways of extending ketamine’s antidepressant effects.

A 2016 article by Jaskaran B. Singh and colleagues in the American Journal of Psychiatry reported that giving depressed patients infusions of ketamine (0.5mg/kg of body weight) twice or three times per week improved their depression compared to placebo over a period of up to 2 weeks.

Side effects included headache, anxiety, dissociation, nausea, and dizziness. The dissociation was temporary and improved with repeated dosing.

Antidepressant Brintellix Renamed Trintellix

October 5, 2016 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 
A new label: Brintellix is now Trintellix.

A new label: Brintellix is now Trintellix.

You may notice the label on your prescription bottle changing. As of June, the antidepressant vortioxetine (formerly Brintellix) is now called Trintellix. The US Food and Drug Administration approved the change to reduce any possible confusion of the antidepressant with a blood-thinning medication called Brilinta.

Weight Gain is a Common Issue with Antidepressants, But Buproprion is an Exception

October 3, 2016 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

weight gain on antidepressants

A 2016 study by researcher David Arterburn and colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Medicine suggests that taking an antidepressant for two years is associated with an increase in body weight. Luckily, bupropion (trade name Wellbutrin) is an exception that may be a good choice for obese or overweight patients.

The researchers analyzed links between which antidepressants patients in a large health system in Washington State were prescribed and their body weight two years later.

The researchers used fluoxetine (Prozac) as a reference. Most antidepressants did not differ significantly from fluoxetine in terms of the weight gain experienced by people taking the drug.

There were a few exceptions. Compared to non-smoking fluoxetine users, who gained an average of 4.6 pounds in two years, non-smoking bupropion users actually lost weight—an average of 2.4 pounds. (Smokers taking bupropion still gained an average of 6.9 pounds.)

Sertraline (Zoloft) was another exception. Sertraline users gained more than users of other antidepressants—an average of 10.5 pounds over two years.

Intranasal Ketamine Produces Long-Lasting Antidepressant Effects

June 3, 2016 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 

intranasal esketamine

It has been known for years that ketamine, an anesthetic at higher doses, can quickly produce anti-depressant effects when delivered intravenously. However, these effects typically last only a few days. New research is exploring how to extend the antidepressant effects of ketamine.

Researcher Ella Daly and colleagues recently compared a form of ketamine called esketamine, this time delivered intranasally, to placebo in people with tough-to-treat depression that had resisted other treatments. Daly and colleagues randomized participants to receive one of three different doses of intranasal esketamine (28mg, 56mg, or 84mg) or placebo twice a week.

All of the doses of intranasal esketamine improved participants’ depression compared to placebo, with higher doses producing more sustained improvement. After the 2-week double-blind study, participants could choose to continue (or begin) taking esketamine for another nine weeks, tapering dosage slowly from twice a week to once every other week by the end. The participants were then monitored for another eight weeks. The intranasal esketamine doses they received led to sustained improvements in depression that lasted, in some cases, through the eight weeks following their final dose.

Side effects were not severe. Ketamine can produce dissociative sensations, but these tended to dissipate with two hours of administration.

Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceuticals funded this research, which was presented at a scientific meeting in 2015, and they plan to continue researching intranasal esketamine in the hopes of getting Food and Drug Administration approval for the drug.

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