Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Treating depression in adolescents

Long-term outcomes of the Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS) not only confirm earlier findings that combining medication and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) offers the quickest and best chance of recovery to depressed adolescents, but that either therapy alone is also effective.

The study — funded by the National Institute of Mental Health — is one of the most comprehensive done to date on this issue. Investigators at 13 medical centers across the United States enrolled 327 patients ages 12 to 17, all diagnosed with major depression. The youths were randomly assigned to treatment with fluoxetine (Prozac), CBT, or both.

The investigators found both at week 12 and at week 36 that more patients responded to combination treatment than to medication or CBT alone. Once the TADS intervention ended, the youths were followed in the community, where they received depression treatment as needed from mental health clinicians. Independent evaluators assessed depression symptoms every three months.

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