In Brief: Drug-free relapse prevention

In Brief

Drug-free relapse prevention

Depressed patients successfully treated with an antidepressant drug are often instructed to keep on taking the drug indefinitely. A study by Italian researchers suggests that may not always be necessary if patients receive a short course of psychotherapy to consolidate their gains.

Forty chronically depressed patients were treated with one of several antidepressants for three months until they were much improved, although many had residual symptoms. Then, while continuing to take the drug for another four months, they were divided into two groups. One group received 10 half-hour sessions of cognitive and behavioral therapies — one every other week. The control group met with prescribing physicians for a half hour every other week.

After that, the drug was discontinued and patients had checkups and evaluations every few months for six years. If they noticed signs of relapse, they could resume taking the antidepressant, this time with the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam added.

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