Persistent and acute feelings of sadness, or loss of pleasure in life, lasting more than two weeks could signal major depressive disorder, which is the medical diagnosis for what is commonly known as depression. In addition to the sadness and impairment experienced with the disease, depression also damages the brain and body. This damage can reduce peoples’ life expectancies by more than 10 years.
Depression is a serious and incredibly common disease, affecting approximately 19.2% of Americans at least once during their lifetime.
In 2016, 10.3 million US adults experienced at least one depressive episode with severe impairment, meaning that they had trouble performing their day‑to‑day activities.
If you have symptoms of depression but haven’t received a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, you may still be able to volunteer for a clinical trial for major depressive disorder. The trial’s screening process includes questions that will determine if your symptoms of depression meet the criteria for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
Of people who seek treatment for depression, and are diagnosed with major depressive disorder, approximately 63% receive traditional care. There are three conventional methods for treating depression:
Of those seeking treatment for major depressive disorder, about 53% were treated with medication. Antidepressants, the most common medication to treat depression, work by altering the way your brain uses certain chemicals that regulate emotions and stress. Antidepressants can take between 2 and 4 weeks to work, and you may need to try several different antidepressants and dosages before one works for you. Even when one does work, it may may not completely alleviate your symptoms.
People taking antidepressants may experience side effects ranging from mild to severe. Some people choose not to take antidepressants because of side effects or what they think will happen if they stop taking them.
Of those seeking treatment for major depressive disorder, about 62.5% of people treat it with psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. Psychotherapy comes in several varieties such as cognitive‑behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. Psychotherapy can work in several different ways including identifying ways to cope with stress, examining a person’s interactions with others, and relaxation and mindfulness techniques among others. Psychotherapy can be helpful, but like antidepressants, it may not completely alleviate your symptoms.
A treatment plan combining both antidepressants and psychotherapy generally results in faster and greater short‑ and long‑term results than either treatment on its own. However, combination treatment plans are often not possible due to cost, travel, or other reasons. Additionally, the combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy may not completely alleviate your symptoms, just as each antidepressants and psychotherapy may not on their own.
Researchers have found that people receiving traditional care still experience depressive symptoms about 60% of the time. Additionally, people with only some improvement in symptoms often experience additional bouts of depression and a significantly impaired quality of life.
Because depression is so common, and because the currently available treatments don’t work for everyone, the need to explore innovative treatments for depression continues to increase.
Depression is the number one source of health disability in the world. And during the last 30 years, rates of depression have skyrocketed, particularly among young people. There are treatments that are helpful, however they often fall short for many people. Additionally, many people choose not to take antidepressants for reasons including side effects and withdrawal symptoms.
Psychedelics have been used throughout history for spiritual and healing purposes. During the 1950s and 1960s many clinical trials involving psychedelics as a psychotherapeutic treatment were conducted. Although these studies were promising, they lacked the rigor and control of today’s studies which are designed to robustly test the effectiveness of psychedelic compounds.