Why antidepressants only work on half the patients they're prescribed to - Macleans.ca

Why antidepressants only work on half the patients they’re prescribed to

Researchers in Toronto say they don’t target the proper protein in the brain


Scientists at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto have figured out why antidepressant medications don’t help half the people to whom they’re prescribed to deal with clinical depression. Today’s antidepressants, they say, don’t affect a protein in the brain that reaches high levels when patients are depressed. It’s called monoamine oxidase A or MAO-A. At very high levels, it actually breaks down feel-good chemicals such as serotonin in the brain. Rather than reversing MAO-A’s damaging habit of removing these all-important chemicals from the brain, current antidepressant drugs just raise serotonin levels. High levels of MAO-A also make people more susceptible to future depression. The researchers say understanding the biochemical processes that contribute to depression are vital to finding an effective, long-lasting remedy—and they predict that future antidepressants will tell the brain to produce less MAO-A.

Science Daily

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Why antidepressants only work on half the patients they’re prescribed to

  1. This article doesn't mention that there already is an older class of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MAOIs, which reduce levels of this protein. They often work where other ADs fail, but are never used as a first-line treatment because of dangerous side effects. If a person on MAOIs eats a food with too much of the amino acid tyramine, they can go into hypertensive crisis. That means anyone on an MAOI can't eat cheese, ripe bananas, and a whole slew of other foods.