13 December 2010

Meditation as effective as antidepressants

by Kate Melville

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy - using meditation - provides equivalent protection against depressive relapse as antidepressant medication, reports a new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The study, appearing in the Archives of General Psychiatry, involved people who were diagnosed with major depressive disorder and were all treated with an antidepressant until their symptoms remitted. They were then randomly assigned to come off their medication and receive mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT); come off their medication and receive a placebo; or stay on their medication. The novelty of this design permits comparing the effectiveness of sequencing pharmacological and psychological treatments versus maintaining the same treatment -antidepressants - over time.

The researchers found that after an 18 month period, the relapse rates for patients in the MBCT group did not differ from patients receiving antidepressants (both in the 30 percent range), whereas patients receiving placebo relapsed at a significantly higher rate (70 percent).

"The real world implications of these findings bear directly on the front line treatment of depression. Data from the community suggest that many depressed patients discontinue antidepressant medication far too soon... for that sizeable group of patients who are unwilling or unable to tolerate maintenance antidepressant treatment, MBCT offers equal protection from relapse," noted researcher Zindel Segal.

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Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health