The use of antidepressants has soared in the U.S., up nearly 400% over the last 25 years¹. With more than 50 different options on the market², antidepressants have now become the most commonly used drug among adults ages 18-44.
But for all those people taking all those prescriptions, doctors are left with some unsettling questions, like: Why don't antidepressants work for everyone? Why do some people respond to certain drugs, while others don't? And, why do some antidepressants work initially, but lose their effectiveness over time?
"That's one of the crucial challenges a physician faces when trying to treat somebody suffering from depression," said Dr. Subhdeep Virk, a psychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "There are actually no accurate ways to predict who is going to respond to a particular antidepressant, versus somebody else. It's mostly, right now, just trial and error."
To try and change that, Dr. Virk is joining researchers from 20 countries on five continents for the International Study to Predict Optimized Treatment of Depression, known as the i-SPOT-d study.
"This is one of the largest studies ever undertaken to look at objective evidence to try to determine which patients are going to respond to treatment", said Dr. Virk.
Getting that objective evidence means putting volunteers through a battery of tests. Researchers will conduct personal interviews, chart family histories and measure a patient's cognitive abilities.
They will also check their blood for genetic clues and will even map patients' brains using electroencephalography tests, or EEGs. "Those tests will help us to find out if there are any abnormalities in the size and shape of the brain in people suffering from depression," said Dr. Virk. They can even log electrical activity and help predict the likelihood of seizures.
It's that attention to detail that caught the attention of Josh Bodner, who volunteered for the study. "I've seen mental illness do a lot of bad things to a lot of good people," he said, "It's not something you want to mess around with."
After watching his sister battle depression, Josh says it was during his second year of college that he began to notice some of the same symptoms in himself. "I would just go back to my dorm room after class and do homework," he said, "but, I wouldn't ever really go out or do things with people."