New Study Shows Aspirin May Prevent and Treat Depression

Community Member

What if you were told that a way to prevent and treat depression could be found in your medicine cabinet? A recent study reported by Medical News Today   suggests that aspirin and statins could help to prevent and treat depression symptoms in women. This study, published in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, explores the association between aspirin's anti-inflammatory properties and a reduction in the risk of depression.

Previous studies and research have indicated that depression is frequently a co-morbid condition for people who are diagnosed with chronic diseases caused by inflammation. Based on this evidence, the authors of this study hypothesized that aspirin or statins could potentially lower depression risk by reducing inflammation.

The authors of this study conducted psychiatric interviews of a sample of 386 women who had been a part of a larger sample from a previous study. The psychiatric interviews took place after a ten year follow up. Among the sample of 386 women, 63 were diagnosed as having Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and 323 had no history of MDD. What they found at the conclusion of the study was that the prevalence of exposure to statins and aspirin was lower among the sample of women having Major Depressive Disorder.

The study results revealed that exposure to statins and aspirin is associated with a reduction in the risk for developing clinical depression in women.

When one reads such a study a lot of questions come to mind such as were there other variables which could better explain the development of depression in some of these women? For the women who were taking aspirin or statins, what was the usual dosage, frequency of intake, or length of time they took the medication? Clearly more research needs to be done before we start popping aspirin as a way to prevent or treat depression. But it does seem to pose a logical direction for research to pursue.

I take particular interest in this study because I do suffer from a chronic disease characterized by inflammation, Multiple Sclerosis. In addition to having MS, I also suffer from depression. This is not uncommon for folk who deal with auto-immune inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and Multiple Sclerosis to also have depression. When Lene Andersen, the community leader for our RA site interviewed me about depression, I predicted that in time, researchers would discover how inflammation may be one of the root causes not just for these chronic illnesses but also for mood disorders. There seems to be an undeniable connection. Then, when I did a bit of my own sleuthing on the Internet, I found many studies which show that my armchair hypothesis may have some scientific backing.

A recent report in Science Daily, cites a new theory proposed by researchers that links depression to chronic brain inflammation. Authors, Athina Markou, PhD, professor of psychiatry and Karen Wager-Smith, a post-doctoral researcher, hypothesize that the underlying mechanism for how the body responds to pain, whether it is from a physical or mental source, may be the same.

Here is how they say it would work. You experience severe stress or a traumatic life event. These events trigger neurobiological processes which then alter our brain chemistry and even wiring. The authors of this report think that this neural remodeling uses the same wound-healing mechanisms that we use to repair bodily wounds. Sometimes the process goes awry and we experience chronic pain and inflammation. They theorize that depression can result. If this theory is accurate, then it is possible that an anti-inflammatory medication may decrease the symptoms of depression. But again, much more research may be needed to prove this definitively.

Markou's theory, associating inflammation with depression, can be found in a paper published in the September online edition of Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

For further reading on this topic I highly suggest reading this 2009 Psychology Today article discussing the overlap between inflammatory disease and depression. The author explains why some people seem immune to some anti-depressants and why some depression medications stop working over time, such as when one experiences a "Prozac poop-out." The author of this article, Robert J. Hedaya, M.D., provides a list of questions indicating that inflammation, infection or immune dysfunction may be playing a role in your depressive symptoms.

Here are just some of those questions:

  • Do I have a physical sense of 'brain fog'?

  • Do I feel that if I had plenty of energy my depression would be gone?

  • Do I have a lot of muscle or joint aches?

  • Do I feel swollen, puffy?

  • Do I have a lot of pain?

  • Do I have gastrointestinal problems?

What is suggested if you answer yes to some of these questions is to consult with your doctor to see if you are not suffering from some type of inflammatory or immune disorder disease or condition. It is worth checking out.

Keep in mind that even research and scientific studies are imperfect at best. Use your common sense when you read anything on the Internet and do your research. Depression is such a complex beast. There are most likely an infinite number of factors which go into whether or not someone will develop depression. All we can do is keep chipping away at what the most probable causes may be and then new treatments may be created based upon what we know.

Tell us your thoughts. Do you think there is anything to this new research? Do you believe that an inflammatory process could be underlying the development of depression or other mental disorders? We want to hear from you