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Treating depression with anti-depressants

May 3, 2012 2:35:29 PM PDT
Chances are, at some point, you or someone you know has taken an antidepressant. They are the most commonly used drugs among adults in this country. But doctors admit, they may also be one of the least understood.

Doctors on five continents are now looking much deeper into depression in an effort to take the guess work out of treating it.

Depression is one of the most challenging illnesses to treat exactly because there is a lot of guesswork involved in finding a working medication. But that is changing.

As a new student, taking tough courses at a huge university, Josh Bodner says there was a time he rarely left his dorm room. During the day he did homework, but at night would deal with depression.

"I came to sort of this realization - 'I'm like 'I'm not happy. I need to do something about it,'" he said.

Josh went to the doctor, and like some 35-million other americans? was given an anti-depressant. That may not surprise you, but this might. Right now, there are nearly 50 different antidepressants on the market. So, how do doctors know which one will work?

"It's mostly, right now, trial and error," Dr. Subhdeep Virk of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said.

Dr. Virk, a psychiatrist, says that although antidepressants have helped millions, there are unresolved issues with them. Doctors still can't predict who will respond to which drugs. Many drugs take 4-to-6 weeks to work and most will stop working.

"The majority of patients are likely to relapse or not have full remission," Dr. Virk said.

So, Virk and her team at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are taking part in one of the largest studies ever of antidepressants. Doctors on five continents are looking for blood and genetic markers for depression and will even map and measure patients' brains.

"That will help us to find out some of the objective measures, if there's any abnormality in people suffering from depression," she said.

After going through the study, josh found medicine helped him, but knows it won't help everyone. That is why he's such a vocal supporter of any research that will make the use of antidepressants more predictable and more potent.

"I've seen mental illness do a lot of bad things to a lot of good people. It's not something you want to mess around with," he said.

Doctors hope this study will help determine who should get what antidepressant and when. It is an urgent matter, considering the use of antidepressants has shot up nearly 400-percent over in the last 25 years in the U.S. alone.

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For more information, visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db76.pdf

National Institutes of Health - http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/mental-health-medications/alphabetical-list-of-medications.shtml

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