Depression Treatment: Where We Are Missing the Mark
Depression affects 450 million people worldwide and 15 million adults in the United States (U.S.) alone. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, claiming over 40,000 lives every year. We see these heartbreaking stories making headlines too often, and there are tens of thousands more we do not know about.
The scariest part? There is no end in sight.
Antidepressants are one of the three most commonly used therapeutic drug classes in the United States. Approximately 1 in 9 Americans of all ages reported taking at least one antidepressant medication — a number that was less than 1 in 50 just three decades ago. The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain highlighted the growing need for a comprehensive solution for depression rates in the United States. In response to the suicides, many turned to the FDA to develop new drugs.
So, why aren’t suicide rates dropping?
The reality is up to one third of patients suffering from depression do not respond to or cannot tolerate antidepressant medication. Today, there are a number of other treatments that have been proven to be effective in helping those with treatment-resistant depression achieve remission. These treatments can work in combination with each other and psychotherapy.
Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (Deep TMS), the “helmet that treats depression”, is a non-invasive neurostimulation therapy that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression, typically used when other depression treatments have failed. Using an electromagnetic coil, the electromagnet delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates the nerve cells in the region of the brain involved in mood control and depression, activating regions of the brain that have decreased activity.
With 20-minute daily treatments for approximately four weeks, the treatment does not impact a patient’s regular routine or ability to work. The treatment is a low-risk procedure with mild headaches or discomfort being the most common side effects. And Deep TMS is often covered by insurance.
Ketamine has been shown to be effective in treating depression, as well. Ketamine got its start as an anesthetic in the 1960s, and since then, it has been shown to have antidepressant effects. Intravenous (IV) ketamine is known to have short-term effectiveness for the treatment of nonpsychotic, treatment resistant unipolar and bipolar major depression. The treatment has shown impressive results with patients who are acutely suicidal, reducing suicidal thoughts within 24 hours of IV administration.