The over-the-counter hormonal therapy known as DHEA may be an effective treatment of midlife-onset minor and major depression, according to a study in the February issue of The Archives of General Psychiatry. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), an adrenal androgen and neurosteroid is available as a supplement in the U.S.
Complementary and alternative medicine is a multimillion dollar industry, reflecting a growing number of people who avoid traditional medication, including anti-depressants, according to information provided in the article. Alternative therapies may have potential as second- or third-line treatments but controlled evaluations of these potential therapeutic agents are needed, the study’s authors suggested. DHEA has been previously reported to have antidepressant-like effects. The current study was designed to evaluate DHEA as a treatment for depression with a midlife onset.
Peter J. Schmidt, M.D., from the Behavioral Endocrinology Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md. and colleagues, evaluated 23 men and 23 women aged 45 to 65 with midlife onset major or minor depression of moderate severity. They were randomly assigned to either receive six weeks of DHEA therapy, three weeks each of two dosages, or six weeks of placebo treatment. Following the six weeks of DHEA therapy and a period of one or two weeks without any therapy, the treatment groups were reversed. The participants in the study were evaluated at three and six weeks during the treatment phases with standard measures of depression and a sexual functioning scale.