Scientists researching Sertraline have discovered the antidepressant may actually function differently to how they previously thought. A study suggests the drug first reduces symptoms of anxiety, before later having a lesser effect on depressive symptoms.
While SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) like Sertraline are widely given to people with depression or anxiety, experts have a relatively minimal understanding of how they actually work in the brain to prevent symptoms.
The BBC reports that the research, carried out by professors at University College London and published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal this week, assessed a group of 653 UK patients - half of whom were given the antidepressant, while the other half were given a placebo pill.
After six weeks, patients taking Sertraline were found to have a 21% greater improvement in anxiety symptoms in comparison to the placebo group, who were taking a dummy pill. After a further six weeks, the gap had widened further to 23%.
The difference the drug made for depression was nowhere near as notable, however. After six weeks, the participants taking the antidepressant reported very little relief in symptoms such as low mood, poor concentration and lack of enjoyment. After the 12 weeks, they displayed marginal improvements (13%) in comparison to the placebo group.
The research suggests Sertraline is perhaps more effective at tackling anxiety than depression.
In general, however, the subjects taking the real antidepressants were found to be twice as likely as the placebo participants to say their mental health felt better overall. UCL's Dr Gemma Lewis, one of the study authors, explains why this might be.
"It appears that people taking the drug are feeling less anxious, so they feel better overall, even if their depressive symptoms were less affected," she told the BBC.
Professor Glyn Lewis, who was also involved in the research, added that he was surprised by what the trial revealed.
"They work, just in a different way than we had expected," he said of antidepressants. "We definitely need better treatments for depression, and more research, but they are effective drugs."
Follow Cat on Twitter.
You Might Also Like