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DHEA May Help Treat Mid-Life Depression

Study suggests over-the-counter hormone can ease symptoms

MONDAY, Feb. 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with the over-the-counter hormonal therapy DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) may be effective in treating midlife-onset minor and major depression, according to a study in the February issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

DHEA, an androgen hormone produced naturally by the adrenal gland, is also classified as a neurosteroid due to its effects on the brain. DHEA is also sold in supplement form in stores throughout the United States.

Researchers at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health studied 23 men and 23 women aged 45 to 65 with moderately severe midlife-onset minor or major depression. They initially received either six week of DHEA therapy or six weeks of placebo. The treatment groups were then reversed.

The study participants were evaluated at three and six weeks during the treatment phases. A 50 percent reduction on a depression rating scale was noted in 23 volunteers following DHEA treatment and in 13 volunteers after placebo.

"At present, there are no predictors of response, and with a 50 percent response rate, one would obviously select more reliable first-line treatments for this condition," the study authors said in a prepared statement.

"However, in the 50 percent of depressed outpatients who do not respond to first-line antidepressant treatment, or in those unwilling to take traditional antidepressants, DHEA may have a useful role in the treatment of mild to moderately severe midlife-onset major and minor depression," they said.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about depression.

SOURCE: JAMA, news release, Feb. 7, 2005
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