Antidepressant Efficacy and the Benefit/Risks of Combining Them with Herbal Medicines

antidepressants– All antidepressants, irrespective of category or class, have similar efficacy, however most of them have different side effects. With antidepressants, no one-size-fits-all, therefore it makes sense for many clients to choose their own initial antidepressant based on what side effects they are willing to tolerate.

– Fifty percent of depressed patients respond to antidepressants; only 43 percent attain sustained recovery from depression via their use. Being well-educated, female, employed, married, and white with no co-morbid conditions are the most salient predictors of a positive response to antidepressants. Co-occurring anxiety, substance abuse, physical illness and a poor quality of life are the key predictors of a poor response.

– The major benefit of taking complimentary therapies, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bach Flower Remedies, St. John’s Wort and SAM-e is that these preparations can potentially enhance the actions of a prescription antidepressant, which for whatever reason, is not producing the desired outcomes. Herbal medicines with evidence of antidepressant properties can help “kick-start” the actions of traditional antidepressants. The risks of herbal medicines include poorly established guidelines for proper dosing, drug-drug interactions in patients using multiple prescription medications and an exacerbation of side effects of the prescribed antidepressant.

Joseph Wegmann, R.Ph., LCSW is a licensed clinical pharmacist and a clinical social worker with more than thirty years of experience in the field of psychopharmacology. His diverse professional background in psychopharmacology and counseling affords him a unique perspective on medication management issues. In addition to consulting with numerous psychiatric facilities, he has presented psychopharmacology seminars to thousands of clinicians in 46 states.

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