This study was aimed at resolving the time course of clinical action of antidepressants (ADs) and the type of early behavioral changes that precede recovery in treatment-responsive depressed patients. The first goal was to identify, during the first 2 weeks of treatment, the onset of clinical actions of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), paroxetine, and the selective noradrenergic reuptake inhibitor, desipramine (DMI). The second aim was to test the hypothesis that the two pharmacologic subtypes would induce different early behavioral changes in treatment-responsive patients. The design was a randomized, parallel group, placebo-controlled, double-blind study for 6 weeks of treatment following a 1-week washout period. The study utilized measures of the major behavioral components of the depressive disorder as well as overall severity. The results indicated that the onset of clinical actions of DMI ranged from 3 to 13 days, averaged 13 days for paroxetine, and was 16-42 days for placebo. Furthermore, as hypothesized, the different types of ADs initially impacted different behavioral aspects of the disorder. After 1 week of treatment, DMI produced greater reductions in motor retardation and depressed mood than did paroxetine and placebo, and this difference persisted at the second week of treatment. Early improvement in depressed mood-motor retardation differentiated patients who responded to DMI after 6 weeks of treatment from those that did not. Paroxetine initially reduced anxiety more in responders than in nonresponders, and by the second week, significantly improved depressed mood and distressed expression in responders to a greater extent. Depressed patients who responded to placebo showed no consistent early pattern of behavior improvement. Early drug-specific behavioral changes were highly predictive of ultimate clinical response to the different ADs, results that could eventually be applied directly to clinical practice.
- Onset of antidepressant effects
- Unipolar depression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health