Study suggests successful depression treatment lowers youths' risk of drug abuse

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A new study by Duke University in the US suggests depressed adolescents who respond to treatment within twelve weeks are at a reduced risk of drug abuse later in their lives.

The research followed about half of a pool of 439 adolescents who had received treatment for major depression and volunteered for Duke University research. At the five-year study's conclusion the participants were aged 17–23. None of them had previously misused drink or drugs.

Alcoholism risk was unaffected by depression treatment, unlike drug abuse

Of those who had experienced a reduction in depressive symptoms within twelve weeks of treatment, ten percent went on to have drug abuse problems. Of the remainder, a quarter became drug abusers. Alcohol use problems, however, were equally prevalent regardless of treatment outcome.

The study was run by Dr. John Curry, a professor of neuroscience and psychology. Curry noted that the results for those treated successfully held true "whatever they responded to — cognitive-behavioral therapy, Prozac, both treatments, or a placebo".

The study has called for major depression disorder treatments to take possible alcohol and drug use into account. Said Curry, "When the teenagers got over the depression, about half of them stayed well for the whole five-year period, but almost half of them had a second episode of depression... what we found out was that, for those who had both alcohol disorder and another depression, the alcohol disorder almost always came first".

He also said the study had "a take-home message" in "that alcohol use disorders are very prevalent during that particular age period and there’s a need for a lot of prevention and education for college students to avoid getting into heavy drinking and then the beginnings of an alcohol disorder".

Curry, alongside Dr. Susan Silva, a co-author, want more research using larger groups. They also say work towards a comparison with non-depressed individuals is needed.