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Hum Psychopharmacol. 2001 Mar;16(2):125-132.

Strategies for the rapid treatment of depression.

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  • 1Northwestern University Medical School, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, 2650 Ridge Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201, USA.


The purpose of this article is to review current literature relating to the determination of the time course of antidepressant effects. Further, this work explores studies examining the safety and effectiveness of pharmacological techniques for accelerating the therapeutic effects of antidepressant medication. A review of the literature pertaining to strategies for accelerating antidepressant medication effects was accomplished using the MEDLINE database, employing the key title words, antidepressant, rapid, and accelerating. A preponderance of evidence suggests that there is a multiple week latency for the onset of action of antidepressant medications. This latency appears to apply to virtually all standard antidepressants and may reflect slow adaptive changes to the inciting event of increased monoamine levels. Several strategies have received attention as potential strategies with which to accelerate the therapeutic effects of antidepressant medications. These include the use of high initial doses of some agents and also the use of initial augmentation strategies. Specifically, studies exist suggesting the acceleration of antidepressant effects using high initial doses of tricyclic antidepressants or venlafaxine, as well as the potential for acceleration by using initial augmentation with psychostimulants, lithium, or pindolol. Considering the morbidity and mortality associated with severe depression, a critical need exist for the exploration of ways in which to achieve antidepressant effects more quickly. A number of preliminary studies suggest strategies for the rapid treatment of depression, each with an apparent high degree of safety. Further investigations in more carefully defined patient populations and utilizing advances in the techniques for assessing antidepressant onset are needed. Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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