Updated: Jan 9, 2020
New Hope for Treatment of Depression and Relapsing Alcoholism
By Theresa Anthony, author, My 13th Station
Shortly after I lost my son to suicide I decided to shift gears in my career. After a long history as a freelance writer, I decided to focus my writing career on helping others who are suffering from the afflictions of addiction and mental illness. For five years now, I have been plugging away, writing informative and, hopefully, inspiring content for a wide array of clients in the behavioral and mental health industry. Every single day when I sit down at my computer to write I always do so with the hope of penetrating someone's barriers, to motivate them to get the help they need.
Because my days are spent researching and writing about mental health and addiction topics, I am sometimes saddened when I learn of something that may have helped my boy while he was struggling so badly. Excited for those who may benefit from them, but sad for my son. He had tried a few outpatient psychotherapy sessions, but wasn’t able to connect with the therapists to open up and share the things he needed help with. He tried Lexapro, Xanax, and trazadone, only to discontinue the drugs one by one as the side effects were difficult to endure. He completed a 30-day rehab stint and then, eight months later, another 30 days at a second treatment center. Still, he was plagued with repeated relapses, only making his depression worsen.
So today I would like to share a few of the treatment options that I have become aware of in my studying of these diseases while on the job. Of course, I cannot personally recommend them, but I offer these alternatives as options to explore when the conventional therapies for treatment of a mental health disorder hasn’t been effective.
TMS: Transcranial magnetic therapy (TMS) has been studied a ton over the last twenty years, and became FDA cleared in 2008 for treating patients with major depressive disorder who were not responsive to antidepressants. TMS is safe and effective, using magnetic energy to help stimulate the lazy brain cells in the mood center of the brain—a common feature among depressed patients. Over the 4-6 week course of treatment, patients may notice more energy, better sleep quality, and overall improvement in mood. I so wish my son could have tried this alternative treatment for his depression. We just hadn’t heard of it back when he was battling his relentless depression. TMS offers hope for many, with about a 60% response rate.
Naltrexone: Naltrexone (brand name Vivitrol) is a drug that is used for individuals in recovery from alcoholism (or opioid addiction). It is non-narcotic, so not habit-forming. This drug therapy can helps people like my boy who struggled with repeated relapses. It binds to the opioid receptors in the brain (we all have them) and actually blocks cravings of alcohol over time. This drug does have some side effects, but when considering the tragic ultimate outcome of alcoholism, those may be worth enduring. Usually, the person is weaned off the naltrexone after 6-12 months, allowing time to become secure in their recovery and new sober lifestyle.
Esketamine: Esketamine is a nasal spray form of ketamine, which is an anesthetic. On March 5, 2019 the FDA granted approval for using esketamine for the treatment of medication-resistant depression. By accident, it was discovered that patients who received ketamine for surgery noticed an improvement in mood. Apparently, the drug triggers glutamate production that somehow helps the brain create new pathways, allowing individuals with treatment-resistant depression to experience positive changes in their thoughts and behaviors. Since this is a new entry into the effort to treat depression, long-term studies are still needed, and there are some side effects to consider as well.
I will never know if these new treatments might have helped my son. It hurts that I won’t have the opportunity to find out, but if he had just been able to hang on these may have worked for him.... sigh. For those whose loved one is still fighting the fight, why not look into these new treatment possibilities for depression and alcoholism. As long as they are still breathing, there is hope.
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