September 11, 2005

Continued Antidepressant Use Reduces Relapse

Researchers have found that continuing one's antidepressants even after symptoms have lessened reduces the chance of having a depressive relapse. The current general practice is to have patients stop taking their antidepressants after or within 6 months of their symptoms waning. Researchers at UC Los Angeles found that following such a practice can increase one's chance of relapsing by almost doubling it. Continuing antidepressants did not increase one's chance of having a manic relapse.

"The team, led by Lori Altshuler, compared the risk of depressive relapse in 84 patients with bipolar disorder who had achieved remission with the addition of an antidepressant to ongoing mood stabilizer treatment. Of these, 43 individuals stopped taking antidepressants within 6 months of remission, while 41 continued taking the drugs beyond 1 year" (PsychiatryMatters.MD).

70% of the patients who stopped taking their antidepressants had a depressive relapse within 1 year. Only 36% of those who were continuing their antidepressant medication had a depressive relapse. Out of the whole group only 18% (15 patients) had a manic relapse, of which only 6 of the 15 were taking antidepressants at that time.

Researchers believe that discontinuing antidepressant medication can increase the chance of relapse in those with bipolar disorder. It might be better if they had maintenance treatment, like those with unipolar depression do. This is of course for those who respond to antidepressants.

Original Source: Continued antidepressant use lowers bipolar relapse risk. PsychiatryMatters.MD.

This research article was published in Am J Psychiatry 2003; 160: 1252-1262.

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