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J Affect Disord. 1998 Jul;50(1):23-7.

Efficacy of light versus tryptophan therapy in seasonal affective disorder.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Although light therapy has become the accepted treatment for patients suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD, winter depression), almost 40% of these patients do not respond, and require an alternative treatment.

METHODS:

The therapeutic effects of light versus tryptophan on SAD were studied in a repeated measures design in 13 SAD patients (11 women, 2 men). Light therapy for 2 weeks or tryptophan for 4 weeks was given, separated by a one week washout period. All were assessed with the modified Hamilton Depression Rating scale (SIGH-SAD) at the beginning and end of each treatment.

RESULTS:

Four (31%) of the patients did not respond to either therapy. Four tryptophan-resistant patients responded to light therapy, while one light therapy-resistant patient responded to tryptophan. Relapse occurred rapidly after stopping light therapy but not after stopping tryptophan therapy.

CONCLUSIONS:

There were significant therapeutic effects of both light (p = 0.012) and tryptophan (p = 0.014) on SAD, which were not significantly different from each other. There may be a time difference between the residual pharmacokinetic effects after stopping therapy.

LIMITATIONS:

The groups studied were small. This was an open study.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE:

Tryptophan was equally effective to light therapy in treating SAD, but relapse after withdrawal of tryptophan probably occurs more slowly.

PMID:
9716275
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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