Depression treatment can prevent adolescent drug abuse

June 4, 2012

Treating adolescents for major depression can also reduce their chances of abusing drugs later on, a secondary benefit found in a five-year study of nearly 200 youths at 11 sites across the United States.

Only 10 percent of 192 adolescents whose receded after 12 weeks of treatment later abused drugs, compared to 25 percent of those for whom treatment did not work, according to research led by John Curry, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.

"It turned out that whatever they responded to -- , Prozac, both treatments, or a placebo -- if they did respond within 12 weeks they were less likely to develop a drug-use disorder," Curry said.

The study found no such relationship when it came to thwarting , however.

The researchers followed nearly half the 439 participants from the "Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study" (TADS; 2000-2003), led by Dr. John March, chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. TADS is considered the largest sample of adolescents who had been treated for major depression.

The participants analyzed by Curry's study were ages 17-23 at the end of the five-year follow-up study and had no preexisting problems with abusing or drugs.

"Onset of Alcohol or Substance Use Disorders Following Treatment for " (2004-2008), found that marijuana was the most prevalent drug used by (76 percent); other drugs included cocaine, opiates and hallucinogens.

The adolescents must have had at least five symptoms for a length of time to be diagnosed with prior to treatment: ; loss of interest; disruptions in appetite, sleep or energy; poor concentration; worthlessness; and suicidal thoughts or behavior.

The researchers said that improved due to medicine or skills learned in cognitive-behavior therapy, along with support and education that came with all of the treatments, may have played key roles in keeping the youths off drugs.

The researchers were surprised to find no differences in alcohol abuse and do not have an answer for why. Curry thinks the prevalence of alcohol use among people ages 17-23 may be a key factor.

"It does point out 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 ," Curry said. "I think that is definitely a take-home message."

Alcohol abuse also led to repeat bouts with depression for some participants, he said.

"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," Curry said. "And what we found out was that, for those who had both alcohol disorder and another depression, the alcohol disorder almost always came first."

Curry and co-author Susan Silva, associate professor and statistician in the Duke School of Nursing, believe more study is needed because the number of participants who developed drug or alcohol disorders was relatively small.

Also, there was no comparison group of non-depressed patients, so the researchers could not be sure that rates of subsequent drug and alcohol abuse disorders were higher than those for adolescents not treated for depression.

The study appears in the April-May edition of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Explore further: Teen alcohol and illicit drug use and abuse examined in study

Related Stories

Teen alcohol and illicit drug use and abuse examined in study

April 2, 2012
A survey of a nationally representative sample of U.S. teenagers suggests that most cases of alcohol and drug abuse have their initial onset at this important period of development, according to a report published in the ...

National guardsmen face a high risk of developing alcohol abuse problems following deployment

February 16, 2012
Soldiers in the National Guard with no history of alcohol abuse are at significant risk of developing alcohol-related problems during and after deployment, according to a new study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence ...

Recommended for you

Twitter can reveal our shared mood

December 11, 2017
In the largest study of its kind, researchers from the University of Bristol have analysed mood indicators in text from 800 million anonymous messages posted on Twitter. These tweets were found to reflect strong patterns ...

Infant brain responses predict reading speed in secondary school

December 11, 2017
A study conducted at the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland and Jyväskylä Centre for Interdisciplinary Brain Research (CIBR) has found that the brain responses of infants with an inherited ...

Study provides hope that schizophrenia isn't as deep-rooted in affected individuals as previously believed

December 8, 2017
A schizophrenia patient's own perceptions of their experiences—and confidence in their judgments—may be factors that can help them overcome challenges to get the life they wish, suggests a new paper published in Clinical ...

The evolutionary advantage of the teenage brain

December 7, 2017
The mood swings, the fiery emotions, the delusions of immortality, all the things that make a teenager a teenager might just seem like a phase we all have to put up with. However, research increasingly shows that the behaviors ...

Study reveals gap in life expectancy for people with mental illness

December 7, 2017
New research from The Australian National University (ANU) has found that men who are diagnosed with a mental health condition in their lifetime can expect to live 10.2 years less than those who aren't, and women 7.3 years.

Reading on electronic devices may interfere with science reading comprehension

December 6, 2017
People who often read on electronic devices may have a difficult time understanding scientific concepts, according to a team of researchers. They suggest that this finding, among others in the study, could also offer insights ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.