Breaking the Stigma: New Advances in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder

Breaking the Stigma: New Advances in the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder

Treatment-Resistant Depression (TRD) |  April 26, 2023BY Sozo Centers

Major depressive disorder is a pervasive mood disorder that’s got folks feeling down in the dumps worldwide. It’s also referred to as clinical depression or simply depression and lasts for a minimum of two weeks with symptoms of low mood or hopelessness. Despite decades of research, the exact cause of depression is still a mystery. However, one thing we do know is that treating depression is like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded – it’s complex and requires many different approaches.

For years, scientists have been tinkering away, trying to improve medications that target a small group of neurotransmitters – serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine – which are the brain’s chemical messengers. These neurotransmitters affect how your nerve cells communicate with each other, and ultimately, your mood. But let’s be real, discovering the best treatment for depression is no small feat.

Standard antidepressants work for most people, but did you know that approximately 30% of individuals who try two different types of these drugs still experience symptoms of depression? Yes, that’s what we call treatment-resistant depression.

However, thanks to two decades of research in understanding the brain biology behind depression, researchers have revolutionized their approach to treating major depressive disorder. Medication research has undergone a significant transformation and is no longer fixated on the pursuit of neurotransmitters alone. As per the eminent Gerard Sanacora, MD, PhD, who helms the Yale Depression Research Program in New Haven, CT, medication research now encompasses a wider spectrum of drug targets beyond the conventional neurotransmitter route. In other words, the drug development landscape has expanded its horizons, and the possibilities are endless!

So, let’s put it simply: the field of depression treatment is constantly evolving, and we’re excited to see where science takes us next!

New Treatments and Faster Outcomes

There has been a long-standing belief that depression is a persistent battle that can take months or even years to conquer. According to Sanacora, recent breakthroughs in fast-acting treatments have altered our perception of what’s possible in this field.

One such groundbreaking development is the FDA’s 2019 approval of brexanolone (brand name Zulresso), which is the first-ever medication designed specifically for postpartum depression. Although the precise mechanism behind brexanolone’s efficacy is not fully understood, it is a synthetic version of a naturally-occurring steroid produced by the human body. It functions by influencing GABA receptors, which are vital in mood regulation.

While it is true that brexanolone is not as convenient to take as other antidepressants, given that it must be administered via intravenous infusion over a period of 60 hours at a healthcare facility, its rapid onset of action makes it an attractive option for those who are struggling with postpartum depression. It is possible for individuals to begin experiencing relief from their depressive symptoms by the end of their treatment.

In the realm of medicine, groundbreaking discoveries are akin to sparkling gems waiting to be unearthed – scarce and invaluable. One such gem that emerged in recent times is Spravato (Esketamine), a nasal spray that packs a punch in the fight against depression. This low-dose version of ketamine is a mood-lifter that revs up the activity of glutamate in the brain’s mood-related areas. Glutamate is the spark plug that fires up brain cells, and Spravato (Esketamine) can set off new neural connections, leading to a marked improvement in depression symptoms within days, says Sanacora, a leading expert in depression treatment.

For those in the grip of suicidal ideation or treatment-resistant depression, Spravato (Esketamine) is a beacon of hope, saving countless lives. But for long-term symptom relief, combining rapid-onset drugs with traditional therapies is the way to go, according to experts. When it comes to mild or moderate depression, Sanacora recommends cognitive behavioural therapy as the first line of defence, followed by Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), aka the good old antidepressants. Novel depression treatments need to pass the safety and efficacy tests with flying colours before they can be widely recommended.

“Depression treatment has undergone a sea change in the past two decades,” Sanacora says. “But we need to iron out the creases and identify the patient groups who can benefit the most from these novel therapies and when.”

Advancements in Brain Stimulation

Medications may be the go-to treatment for depression, but there’s a shockingly effective alternative that’s been around for over 70 years: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). And while ECT may not be the newest kid on the block, recent advancements have made it a more refined and less memory-busting option than ever before.

In fact, modern ECT uses lower energy levels, delivering the same positive outcomes without zapping your memory and thinking skills. As Susan Conroy, MD, PhD, a top-notch psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Indiana University School of Medicine, puts it, “That’s a massive improvement!”

Dr. Conroy’s novel approach to combating depression entails utilizing Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) – a method that sends magnetic pulses traversing your cranium. Unlike electroconvulsive therapy, TMS boasts fewer side effects and relies on brain tissue’s ability to translate signals into electrical energy. By changing the way certain areas of your brain communicate, TMS can help alleviate the symptoms of depression.

Before beginning TMS, you must talk with a medical professional. They can help you decide if this treatment is right for you. Remember, a little consultation can go a long way in getting you the best possible results. If other treatments have failed and you find yourself struggling to complete daily activities, lacking appetite, or experiencing persistent suicidal ideation, it may be time to escalate your treatment.

Depression is no joke! It’s a serious condition that deserves immediate attention. Don’t hesitate to speak up and seek help – your mental health is priceless!

Future Treatment

There are numerous innovative therapies being developed to combat depression, and one of them is deep brain stimulation. A trained surgeon inserts electrodes into your brain during this treatment. These electrodes transmit gentle electric pulses that modify the electrical signals responsible for your symptoms.

Essentially, it’s like having a tiny pacemaker for your mood! Although this treatment isn’t yet available to the general public, it may be in the near future. “Technology is moving at a breakneck pace,” says Conroy.

Another potential game-changer is a drug called SAGE-217. According to Sanacora, this medication could help prevent severe relapses in people with a history of depression. The idea is to take it as soon as symptoms begin to reappear, rather than waiting for them to become full-blown.

As a depression-busting superhero, Psilocybin, aka “magic mushrooms,” has been making headlines lately. Research suggests they can offer speedy relief from the blues. However, while psychedelics may seem like a promising path to wellness, Dr. Gerard Sanacora, a prominent expert in the field, urges caution, saying that we need more research before drawing any definitive conclusions.

Sanacora stresses that although there may not be a cure for major depressive disorder, there are steps you can take to mitigate the symptoms. From medication to talk therapy to exercise and socializing, it’s crucial to do all you can to protect yourself against depression’s grip.

So, whether you’re down in the dumps or just looking to keep those blues at bay, remember to follow Sanacora’s advice: do all the things you know are good for you, and stay vigilant against depression’s sneaky tactics.

Final Thoughts

Let’s break the stigma and put mental health issues in the spotlight they deserve! Major Depressive Disorder can be a formidable foe, but fear not, for science has made great strides in treating those who struggle with traditional therapies. Say hello to Spravato, the nasal spray sensation that’s taking the mental health world by storm. Not only has it proven efficacious in treating TRD, but it’s also convenient and easy to use. And let’s not forget the power of talk therapy and telehealth – they’re opening doors and breaking down barriers so that mental health care can be accessible to all. Let’s embrace the future, and give hope to those who need it most.

Sozo Wellness Centers is at the forefront of providing these new advances in mental health treatment, and our team of experienced and compassionate experts is dedicated to helping patients achieve maximum mental well-being. Offering Spravato treatment, telehealth services, and talk therapy. We are well-equipped to provide personalized and effective treatments to patients suffering treatment resistant depression.

If you or anyone you care about is suffering from depression or any mental health condition, don’t wait another day to take action. Start your path towards a life brimming with happiness, health, and contentment by reaching out to us today!


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