A new study by researchers at University of Maryland School of Medicine has identified promising compounds that could successfully treat depression in less than 24 hours while minimizing side effects. Although they have not yet been tested in people, the compounds could offer significant advantages over current antidepressant medications. The research, led by Scott Thompson, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM), was published online on April 22, 2015 in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. The article is titled “Rapid Antidepressant Action and Restoration of Excitatory Synaptic Strength After Chronic Stress by Negative Modulators of Alpha5-Containing GABAA Receptors. "Our results open up a whole new class of potential antidepressant medications," said Dr. Thompson. "We have evidence that these compounds can relieve the devastating symptoms of depression in less than one day, and can do so in a way that limits some of the key disadvantages of current approaches." Currently, most people with depression take medications that increase levels of the neurochemical serotonin in the brain. The most common of these drugs, such as Prozac and Lexapro, are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Unfortunately, SSRIs are effective in only a third of patients with depression. In addition, even when these drugs work, they typically take between three and eight weeks to relieve symptoms. As a result, patients often suffer for months before finding a medicine that makes them feel better. This is not only emotionally excruciating; in the case of patients who are suicidal, it can be deadly. Better treatments for depression are clearly needed. Dr. Thompson and his team focused on another neurotransmitter besides serotonin, an inhibitory compound called GABA.
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