Super Prozac is on the way

When depression sufferers get put on an SSRI regimen (the most common type of antidepressant), it can be a bit tedious. These meds can take a while to be effective, which is not ideal for obvious reasons. Imagine having a stiff back for months, finally realizing you can take something for it, and then taking that medicine for days before getting any relief. Fortunately, new research could lead to faster, more effective antidepressants. Rockefeller University scientists described how SSRIs initiate action on nerve cells for the first time, which means innovators will be able to design better SSRIs on account of the whole now-we-actually-know-how-it-works thing. Here’s some more drugs we’ve been giving people for years even though we don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

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Eh, what’s up bot?

Feeling blue but don’t have the time/money/energy to go see a professional therapist? Or do you just hate interacting with people? Woebot may be just the “fully automated conversational agent” (AKA chatbot) you’re looking for. Chatbots are popping up all over, but this one has some research to back up its claims of being able to reduce depression. For $39 a month, Woebot will check in on you once a day and ask some simple, judgement free questions about how you’re doing. If you cancel your Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime subscriptions, you can easily pay for this service and an extra latte or two. If you watch all of those, that might be a major source of the problem. This writer does what he can to help, free of charge.

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4. Which came first, the crazy or the cats?

It has been hypothesized that the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, whose primary host is the housecat, can mess with the mind. Studies show that infected mice lose their fear of cats, making them even more susceptible to cat consumption, which in turn infects the cat. Previous studies have suggested that having a cat for a pet could be linked to mental disorders like schizophrenia as well as depressive disorders (and popular culture has confirmed this bias with the crazy cat lady stereotype) due to exposure to the t. gondii infection. Well crazy people, a new study came out that says you can’t blame the cat. Meee-aaahhhh-oooow, what’s that sound? A collective sigh of relief from the ~500 million domesticated cats.

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3. Let Botox put a smile on that face

For years, people have received Botox injections to look younger and feel better. There might be more to “feel better” than folks realized. According to Allergan R&D chief, David Nicholson, a recent Phase II investigator initiated trial for the drug is showing promise and, if replicable, will “be really valuable in psychotherapy.” Quick question: is the couch really where a person wants to receive an injection? Nicholson isn’t worried about that, stating, “I have no doubt in my mind the psychiatric community will embrace it and will start giving…injections.” Future ads might say, “let Botox turn that frown upside down.” But if nothing else, the frown will look more youthful.

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4. Not spending enough time on the (psychiatrist’s) couch?

Sometimes what seems like a lot is still insufficient. That was the gist of at least one psychiatrist’s response to the finding that 17% of American adults take a psychotropic medication to cope with conditions like depression, anxiety and insomnia. Given the “rate of psychiatric disorders in adulthood being close to 25% of the population in any 12-month period” Dr. Victor Fornari hypothesizes there is still a proportion of the population going untreated. However, the study found most RXs were written by a primary care physician rather than a psychiatrist, indicating patients lost out on psychotherapy and other means to learn coping strategies for mood, thought and behavioral issues, which can lead to long-term use, dependence and adds to rising costs of healthcare.

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5. Feed your head

What’s worse than having anxiety and depression? Having anxiety and depression about your cancer diagnosis and the potential for relapse. While the mushrooms your mother gives you may not do anything at all, two separate studies have shown that a single dose of magic mushrooms demonstrated “immediate, substantial, and sustained clinical benefits” with respect to anxiety and depression for about 80% of study participants with minimal side effects. Furthermore, these psychological benefits were immediate for most patients (unlike antidepressant meds that might take weeks to show benefit) and lasted longer than 6.5 months, the duration of the follow-up period. This is particularly good news because cancer-related psychological distress can be resistant to conventional therapy, and cancer treatments have been a gateway to recreational use…thanks, marijuana.

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