Research on Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Easing Depression

A study published in the 15 October 2014 issue of scientific journal JAMA Psychiatry suggests that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could help ease symptoms of depression. Several popular science glosses have appeared in news sites over the last couple days.

The study was conducted by researchers at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, who reviewed, compared and collated the results of fourteen previous studies on the subject. (One summary calls this approach a “meta-analysis”.)

The research seems to suggest that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs could help prescription anti-depressant drugs work better. It’s not clear how or why this would work or how pronounced the effect might be.

The summaries are a bit inconsistent on which nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are being discussed. WebMD reports, “The results link this additional use of NSAIDs — in particular, Celebrex (celecoxib) — to people having better responses to antidepressants without a higher risk of side effects.” Celebrex is currently available by prescription only. But Psych Central reports that the study “suggests ordinary over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs may aid in the treatment of depression, when taken in combination with antidepressants”. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

The Aarhus researchers adopt tentative conclusions, reporting that these drugs show promise and calling for further research. They certainly don’t recommend that depression sufferers start popping anti-inflammatories. If anything, the study underscores how much the causes and possible treatments of depression remain a mystery.

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