Preventing Drug Abuse in Depressed Youths

Adolescent Drug abuse is less likely with effective treatment for depression

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Adolescents who get treatment for their major depressive disorder (MDD) before they begin abusing drugs are less likely to start. Early treatment is the best prevention method.

New research suggests that drug abuse for some adolescents with MDD can be avoided with effective treatment.

Researchers said “It does point out that alcohol use disorders are very prevalent during that particular age period and there’s a need for a lot of prevention and education for college students to avoid getting into heavy drinking and then the beginnings of an alcohol disorder. I think that is definitely a take-home message.”

"Teens need a doctor if they show signs of depression."

John F. Curry, PhD, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, led a team to investigate whether treating depression in adolescents would lower percentages of drug abuse both now and later in life.

Curry’s team followed 192 adolescents for 5 years from the Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study (TADS). By this time the participants were between the ages of 17-23. None of the participants had been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD) before entering the study.

While in TADS each of the participants was separated into four different treatment groups: cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), anti-depressant drug therapy (fluoxetine/Prozac), a combination of both fluoxetine and CBT or clinical monitoring with a placebo (non-medication pill).

After completing TADS, the researchers did follow-up interviews every six or 12 months to check for AUD, SUD and MDD. Results from the study showed that none of the treatments changed the likelihood of participants with depression developing AUD, but did lower the chance of developing SUD.

Those who were successfully treated for their depression in the TADS program were 14.5 percent less likely to develop a SUD than those who were not successfully treated.

According to Curry, “It turned out that whatever they responded to—[CBT], Prozac, both treatments, or a placebo—if they did respond within 12 weeks they were less likely to develop a drug-use disorder.”

In this study, marijuana accounted for 76 percent of drug usage.

Results also suggested that if adolescents were involved with drugs or alcohol before getting treatment for depression they were more likely to return to drugs and alcohol after treatment. In 24 out of 25 cases, those with recurring MDD and AUD started drinking before the depression returned.

“When the teenagers got over the depression, about half of them stayed well for the whole five-year period, but almost half of them had a second episode of depression. And what we found out was that, for those who had both alcohol disorder and another depression, the alcohol disorder almost always came first.”

This study was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, April 2012. No financial information was given.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 15, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012