Treating Teens for Depression Can Lower Risk of Future Substance Abuse

Treating Teens for Depression Can Lower Risk of Future Substance Abuse

The changes and pressures of adolescence weigh heavily on some children. Physical and psychological changes are rapidly changing the child into a young adult. Depression can easily take hold at this vulnerable time of maturing. By the teen years, most children will have already had their first encounter with drugs and alcohol.

Researchers at Duke University studied children with depression to predict the likelihood that they would engage in substance abuse in their later years. Their report, published in the April/May issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, revealed that children who received treatment for depression were less likely to abuse drugs later in life.

Improved Mood Regulation Reduces Substance Abuse Risk

A team of Duke researchers, led John Curry, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, found that participants who responded within twelve weeks to treatment for depression by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Prozac, or a placebo were less likely to later abuse drugs.

Of 192 participants, only 10 percent who had been treated for depression later abused drugs. At the same time, 25 percent of those who didn’t successfully receive treatment later abused drugs.

Curry’s team used information from another Duke University researcher, Dr. John March, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. March had previously conducted the Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study, which included the largest number of adolescents with depression ever studied. Each participant in the study had been diagnosed with major depression according to at least five criteria.

Alcohol Abuse Statistics Not Affected

One surprise in the research was that teens that were treated for depression used alcohol just as much as those who were not treated for depression. The rate of use for alcohol was not affected by treatment.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure why results turned out that way. Curry believes that it only emphasizes the fact that alcohol use is so common with adolescents and that prevention programs and education need to continue actively.

After five years, about half of the participants fell back into depression. Some of them had meanwhile developed an alcohol disorder. Curry stated that of those that fell back into depression, their alcohol disorder almost preceded the depression.

More Research Will Support Treatment

While the findings in this study reveal the undeniable benefits of treatment for those with depression, Curry admits that more studies need to be conducted on the relationship between treatment for depression and likelihood of substance abuse. The study only involved participants who suffered from depression. Researchers believe a study that compared those with depression and those not afflicted by depression could produce interesting and valuable information.

The percentage of those who later abused substances was small, yet there was an increase in those that later used drugs. Each step in treatment research brings individuals a step closer to living healthy and enjoyable lives.

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