Limbic Medical

2024 Trends in Depression Treatment

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Publish date

01/18/2024

What’s New in Depression Treatment?

Mental health treatment is an active area of research and discovery. Every year, hundreds of new studies are published on depression treatment and mental health. Researchers continue to search for the best treatment – or combination of treatments – for depression and anxiety.

Our direct experience treating patients at our clinic also gives us relevant insights into depression treatment. We treat hundreds of patients with depression and anxiety and are able to observe which treatments tend to produce the best patient outcomes.

So let’s take a look at new, exciting options in depression treatment in 2024.

Trend #1: Patients Moving Away From Traditional Antidepressants

Antidepressant medication has long been the go-to solution for depression (and anxiety). And within the antidepressant category, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) remain the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. These include drugs like Prozac and Paxil.

Currently, about one in eight U.S. adults take antidepressants, although for women that number is higher, at one in five.1

While antidepressants work well for many people, they don’t work well enough – or at all – for about half of patients who try them. For this group of patients, antidepressants can be a frustrating series of failures.2

Antidepressants also deliver some serious side effects, including weight gain, diarrhea, sexual dysfunction, and sleep issues. Because of these concerns, there is an increasing trend away from antidepressants, with patients and clinicians both reevaluating the risk/reward profile. Read one patient’s experience with, and reevaluation of, antidepressant use.3

With many patients discontinuing antidepressant use due to onerous side effects, it’s not surprising that pharmaceutical companies are working on developing antidepressants with fewer side effects.4 These newer antidepressants are expected to come to market in 2024, so it remains to be seen whether they replace the older, well-established drugs.

Trend #2: Increasing Popularity of Ketamine

As patients explore alternatives to antidepressants, ketamine is often at the top of the list. Unlike SSRIs, which target serotonin production, ketamine works through an entirely different mechanism. Ketamine affects glutamate, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain. Because of its different mechanism of action, ketamine works as a depression treatment for many patients who did not have a satisfactory result from antidepressants.
Ketamine has several advantages over antidepressants, including:

Rapid Relief

Ketamine’s rapid time to effectiveness was one of the reasons it quickly gained attention as a treatment for depression. Ketamine takes effect almost immediately, with most patients noticing improvement within hours or days of treatment. Antidepressants, on the other hand, take four to six weeks before reaching full efficacy.5

Short Treatment Time

Ketamine infusions are typically delivered over a 2-3 week period of time, with patients receiving six infusions total during that time period. Each session lasts about an hour.

Compared with other depression treatment options, ketamine requires much less time to administer. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), another popular depression treatment, requires 36 treatment sessions to complete one full treatment. TMS patients are required to visit their provider daily – five times per week – over a period of 7-8 weeks.

With antidepressants, the patient must remember to keep taking the antidepressant over months or years. Pill fatigue is real, and patients often tire of the routine and stop taking their prescribed medication. With ketamine, that is not a concern.

Few Side Effects

When administered correctly under medical supervision, ketamine has few side effects. Some patients may experience dissociation or light-headedness during treatment, but those side effects can be quickly minimized by medical staff if the patient is receiving IV ketamine therapy.

Once the infusion session is finished, there are few, if any, side effects reported by patients. The weight gain, sexual dysfunction, gastrointestinal issues and other side effects typical of antidepressants are not experienced by patients undergoing ketamine treatment.

Ketamine Delivery Options

Patients also appreciate the flexibility of ketamine delivery. Ketamine can be delivered via nasal spray, infusions, or oral ketamine microdosing. At Limbic Medical, we offer infusion and at-home ketamine microdosing options. In-office ketamine infusions combined with at-home microdosing offers patients the rigorous safety and higher dosage available through controlled clinical delivery along with the convenience of at-home microdose maintenance treatment.

Because of ketamine’s many advantages in treating depression, look for ketamine to become even more popular this year.

Trend #3: Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)

TMS has recently emerged as an alternative to first-line treatments for depression. TMS is a noninvasive procedure that uses electromagnetic coils to stimulate certain parts of the brain associated with depression, such as the prefrontal cortex. Like ketamine, TMS promotes neuroplasticity, enabling the brain to form new neural connections and pathways. While noninvasive, the treatment process is intensive and requires a significant time commitment. Patients are required to come in for a session five days a week for 3-6 weeks, with each session ranging from 20 minutes to an hour.

TMS has been clinically shown to alleviate depressive symptoms and treatment-resistant depression (TRD), with a 50-55% response rate.6 Improvement of symptoms can last for several months post treatment, but additional rounds of treatment are often required. Patients may enhance their recovery and sustain results by combining TMS and ketamine therapy. Introducing ketamine to TMS treatments would increase the tolerability of the procedure and reduce the length and number of sessions needed.

Trend #4: Focus on Functional Medicine and Mood Disorders

There is an increasing awareness that attempting to treat depression or anxiety in isolation is a fool’s errand. Doctors and patients alike have realized that a whole-body treatment program yields the best results. While direct treatments like therapy, antidepressants, or ketamine are important they are not a complete care plan.

A trend that will continue in 2024 is that patients and doctors will address multiple facets of a patient’s health profile – such as nutrition, sleep, exercise, and other key activities – as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. A functional medicine approach to depression and anxiety, like the approach we use at Limbic Medical, will continue to gain in popularity because of the excellent track record of success for a functional medicine approach.

When it comes to treating depression and anxiety, an all-out approach is the best approach. Because why only go halfway?

Best Depression Treatment in 2024

Patients have many options when it comes to depression treatment. While antidepressants continue to remain popular, patients are increasingly choosing to opt out of long-term antidepressant use.

Trends that we see continuing to grow in 2024 are patients choosing alternative depression treatments, like ketamine, that have fewer side effects and that don’t require a daily regimen to maintain. We also see patients adopting an integrative approach to treatment that incorporates a holistic wellness approach and addresses areas such as diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and other core areas of health.

Best-in-class Ketamine Clinic in Los Angeles

Limbic Medical is recognized as the premier ketamine clinic in the Los Angeles area because we use scientifically-backed innovations combined with evidence-based treatments to achieve better results. Our patients benefit from our whole care, functional medicine approach to treating depression, anxiety, and other mental health illnesses.

In Los Angeles, Limbic Medical is the preferred choice for patients seeking rapid relief from depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, while supporting long-term changes through interdisciplinary functional medicine integration. Contact us today to learn more about our patient-focused approach to care.

Sources:

1. Brody, Debra J., and Qiuping Gu. “Products – Data Briefs – Number 377 – September 2020.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 September 2020

2. Collins, Sonya. “Ketamine has been called a breakthrough therapy for depression, but it comes with risks. Here’s how it works.” Fortune, 4 November 2023

3. Manley, Kelley. “Antidepressants in 2023: Is It Time to Rethink Antidepressants?” ELLE, 7 June 2023

4. Ellis, Ralph. “New Depression Drug Avoids Unfortunate Side Effects of Others.” WebMD, 29 September 2023

5. “Efficacy of ketamine therapy in the treatment of depression.” NCBI

6. Rizvi, Sukaina. “Use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Depression.” NCBI