Depressed Teens Who Respond to Treatment Less Likely to Abuse Drugs

THURSDAY June 7, 2012 -- Teens with major depression who receive and respond to treatment are less likely to abuse drugs in the following years, a new study suggests.

The study included 192 participants, aged 12 to 18, at 11 sites across the United States who were treated for major depression and then followed for five years. The study participants had no preexisting drug or alcohol abuse problems.

During the follow-up, 10 percent of those whose depression receded after 12 weeks of treatment later abused drugs, compared with 25 percent of those who did not respond to depression treatment, the researchers found.

"It turned out that whatever they responded to -- cognitive behavioral therapy, Prozac, both treatments, or [an inactive] placebo -- if they did respond within 12 weeks they were less likely to develop a drug-use disorder," study leader John Curry, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University in Durham, N.C., said in a university news release.

Improved control of mood due to medicine or skills learned in cognitive behavioral therapy, along with support and education that were part of all depression treatments, may have been important in helping prevent drug abuse, the study authors said. Cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that a person can change their behavior by changing their thinking patterns.

However, the researchers were surprised to find that successful treatment of depression did not reduce the participants' later risk of alcohol abuse. Widespread alcohol use among people aged 17 to 23 may be a key factor, they noted.

The investigators also found that alcohol abuse led to repeat bouts of depression for some of the study participants.

"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."

The study was published in the April-May issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

Because the number of teens who developed drug or alcohol disorders was fairly small, the study authors said more research is needed to confirm the results.

More information

Helpguide.org has more about teens and depression.

Posted: June 2012


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