Nov 29, 2019

Painkillers for depression

New research shows that taking aspirin or ibuprofen every day can help relieve the symptoms of depression.

Two studies in the last year have concluded that over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin could have a surprising side-effect of reducing depression.


Last month, the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry reported that researchers in China (supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China) looked at 30 previous studies examining the impact of anti-inflammatory drugs on people with major depressive disorders.

They concluded that taking a 400mg daily dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) was 79% more effective than a placebo at eliminating depressive symptoms, and 52% more effective at reducing their overall severity.

Some other anti-inflammatory treatments such as statins (often taken to control cholesterol) also appeared to boost the effectiveness of anti-depressants, when taken at the same time.

This study is supported by a similar review of 36 randomised controlled trials carried out at Aarhus University in Denmark (reported in the Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica
journal). They also found that compared with placebo, patients with major depressive disorders showed greater improvements in depressive symptoms when treated with NSAIDs.

Several recent studies have linked depression to brain and body inflammation. This has led some people to speculate that an overactive immune system (which causes inflammation) could be one factor in causing depression. “Depression may simply be the price we pay for having an immune system,” said Prof Alan Carson of the University of Edinburgh, who edited the findings in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

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