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Drug + Therapy Combo Best for Teen Depression

Combined Approach Judged Better Than Drugs or Therapy Alone

WebMD Health News

Aug. 17, 2004 -- Treating depressed teenagers with a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy is better than either treatment approach alone, according to a major new study.

The results also suggest that combining antidepressant treatment with talk therapy may help alleviate some of the potentially harmful or suicidal behaviors that may be associated with antidepressant use.

Researchers found more teenagers with major depression got relief and were effectively treated for their condition with a combination of Prozac, one of a class of commonly used antidepressants known as SSRIs, and cognitive behavioral therapy than with antidepressants, psychotherapy, or placebo alone.

The study also showed that the combination of Prozac and cognitive behavioral therapy produced the greatest reduction in suicidal thinking among the different treatment approaches. However, researchers found an increase in harm-related adverse events associated with antidepressant use that may be tempered by behavioral therapy.

"The greatest benefit at the lowest risk is not to use medication alone but to use it in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy," says researcher John March, MD, MPH, of Duke University Medical Center.

Earlier this year, the FDA warned parents and health care providers that children and adolescents taking antidepressants should be closely monitored for worsening depression and suicidal thinking, especially at the start of treatment. FDA officials are currently reviewing data on a possible link between antidepressant use and suicide risk in children and is expected to discuss their findings at a meeting next month.

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