Treatment for Depression May Prevent Adolescent Drug Abuse


Researchers at Duke University have completed a study that found that treating adolescents for major depression also has the ability to reduce their chances of abusing drugs later in life.

This five year study of 192 youths at 11 sites in the United States had successful results in both treating depression and reducing later drug use. After 12 weeks of treatment only 10% of the 192 subjects who had reduction in depression later abused drugs compared to 25% for those who were not helped by treatment.

There was no relationship between treatment for depression and decreasing alcohol use. Researchers were unsure of why there was no relationship found other than the already prevalent use of alcohol among this population. Alcohol abuse also leads to depression in this population. For those with alcohol disorders as well as depression, it was found that the alcohol disorder came first.
Researchers found that whatever treatment they did respond to for depression be it cognitive behavioral therapy, medication or placebo; if response came within 12 weeks they were less likely to develop drug use.

The 192 subjects cane from a larger population pool from a previous study on adolescent treatment for depression at Duke University medical Center. This previous study had 439 subjects and is considered to be the largest sample of adolescent who had been treated for major depression.

The current study used subjects between the ages of 17-23 who at the end of five years and a follow up study had no preexisting problems with abusing alcohol or drugs.

The previous study, “Onset of Alcohol or Substance Use Disorders Following Treatment for Adolescent Depression" (2004-2008), found the most prevalently used drug was marijuana with 76% of subjects. Other drugs reportedly used were cocaine, opiates and hallucinogens.

To be diagnosed with a major depression, subjects must have had at least five symptoms for a period of time prior to treatment. Symptoms included depressed mood, loss of interest, appetite, sleep or energy disruptions, poor concentration, feelings of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Researchers noted that improved mood regulation in subjects die to medicine or skills from cognitive behavior therapy, in addition to support and education that coincided with all the treatments may have played important roles in keeping adolescents from drug use.


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