New Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Could Treat Depression

By McCarton Ackerman 10/24/16

The future generation of anti-inflammatories are more beneficial than researchers expected.

New Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Could Treat Depression

Move over, Tylenol. A new study has found that the newest wave of anti-inflammatories could be a groundbreaking cure for treating depression.

The findings, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, came from researchers across the pond at the University of Cambridge. Inflammation, the body’s immune response to pathogens or injections, results in immune cells overtaking the bloodstream with proteins known as cytokines. Current anti-inflammatories such as aspirin treat the symptoms of inflammation, but the future generation of anti-inflammatories goes one step further by counteracting the cytokines. However, the drugs are still being clinically tested for efficacy and safety in human use.

Researchers examined data from 20 separate studies on side effects of anti-cytokine drugs. All of the participants in these studies had chronic autoimmune inflammatory diseases, which is caused when healthy cells are mistaken for infected cells. The findings showed that anti-cytokine drugs improved symptoms of depression across the board, even in cases where they didn’t lessen the symptoms of illness or inflammation.

“[Anti-cytokine drugs] are now routinely used for treating patients who respond inadequately to standard treatments for inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease both in the U.S. and Europe,” said Dr. Golam Khandaker, lead author of the study and a clinical lecturer in Cambridge’s department of psychiatry. “The findings suggest that inflammation may contribute to the pathogenesis of depression [and that] anti-inflammatory drugs may be helpful in treating patients with depression who are chronically inflamed.”

Their analysis of the 20 studies also uncovered several other surprising findings. The Cambridge researchers noted that children with high daily levels of inflammation are at risk for developing psychosis and depression in adulthood, and other research has suggested that anti-inflammatory drugs used in tandem with anti-psychotic drugs may be more effective than anti-psychotics alone.

An October 2014 study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, also linked the benefits of combining anti-depressants and anti-inflammatory medication. Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark analyzed 14 international studies and not only found positive benefits, but that combining the two “strengthens the possibility of being able to provide the individual patient with more personalized treatment options," according to Ole Köhler, lead author and medical student-researcher at Aarhus University.

Some medical experts have also touted the benefits of adopting an anti-inflammatory diet in treating depression.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.