Antidepressants work. As first-line treatment for distressed patients having difficulty getting through the day, their efficacy is proven. When you look at long-term maintenance, however, are antidepressants the best first line regimen for patients? A review of studies published in the Nature Review of Neuroscience suggests that for long-term remission, patients who complete a 16-week program of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with regular assessments have significantly improved outcomes when compared to those treated with antidepressants, alone.
In the study, 240 patients with severe depression were divided into separate cohorts with one group treated with a short course of antidepressants and the other with CBT. The authors’ findings show that during the period of treatment, medications and therapy are equally effective in treating the symptoms of depression. When each treatment was stopped after 16 weeks, however, each cohort’s story diverged. One year after stopping antidepressant medications, 76% of patients relapsed, as opposed to only 31% relapse in those patients who completed CBT.
These results demonstrate CBT has a more durable therapeutic effect than antidepressants alone.
These findings make one re-think those patients who are “maintained” on antidepressant medication. What will happen if they lose their prescription coverage due to financial hardship? Or they struggle with medication compliance due to unpleasant side effects?
CBT offers a short and effective course of therapy that makes patients feel better without untoward suffering due to psychotropic medication side-effects.
At Quartet, research like this guides us every day. We are here to support primary care physicians focused on giving patients the best possible care. We are committed to helping individuals get better, stronger, and in control of their lives.