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Drug Plus Psychotherapy Best Treatment for Depressed Teens

This strategy beat out either therapy alone, researchers found

MONDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- A combination of cognitive behavior therapy plus antidepressant drugs is the best way to ease depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts and behavior in depressed teens, new research shows.

The Duke University-led study is published in the October issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

The 36-week multicenter study of 327 teens, ages 12-17, examined the effectiveness of the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride) and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) alone or in combination.

After 12 weeks, all treatment groups showed decreased depression, with the greatest reduction (71 percent response rate) noted in the group of teens receiving combination therapy. After 18 weeks, the combination therapy group had an 85 percent response rate, compared to 69 percent for Prozac alone and 65 percent for CBT alone.

After 36 weeks, teens receiving the combination treatment had a response rate of 86 percent, compared to 81 percent each for Prozac or CBT alone, the study said.

The researchers said their findings point to the potential benefits of combination therapy -- Prozac for recovery from depressive symptoms and CBT to equip teens with coping skills.

"Depression among teenagers is a significant public health problem, and there has been a tremendous need to identify treatments that work and are also safe," lead investigator Dr. John March, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Duke University, said in a prepared statement.

"While many questions remain about the safest and most beneficial course of treatment for adolescents, this data provides a significant step forward," he said. "It provides an evidence-based option that has been found to improve depression through medication used together with cognitive behavioral therapy."

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about teens and depression.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Duke University, news release, Oct. 1, 2007

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