Posted by The Vigilant Mom on December 5, 2011
Back in 2006, the antidepressant medication Prozac went head-to-head against light therapy as a means of treating the symptoms of depression. In a surprise twist, the light therapy won.
While both therapies have proven to be effective at treating depression, the light therapy won the comparison test because it was determined to kick in faster and with less adverse side effects. The Can-Sad Study: A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effectiveness of Light Therapy and Fluoxetine in Patients with Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder was published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 2006. What stuns me is that I just heard about light therapy now. This comparison had researchers giving a light treatment group 10,000-lux light and a placebo capsule. The group that took the drugs were given “100-lux light (placebo light) and fluoxetine (Prozac), 20 mg/day.” The light therapy was applied for 30 minutes per day in the morning with a fluorescent white-light box.
Without getting into all of the technical aspects of the results, I will just say that the light therapy proved to work faster than the Prozac and placebo patients, with fewer side effects. At the beginning of this year, the New York Times posted an article that called to attention a randomized controlled trial that suggested that more research should be done on light therapy, after that trial study showed that light therapy can be used to treat older patients with depression that was not just seasonal. It was a small study that only involved 89 patients ages 60 and older, but the findings were very significant. This study showed that when compared with a placebo, light therapy better changed patient moods over antidepressants. According to Dr. Ritsaert Lieverse, the paper’s lead author and a psychiatrist at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, “The effect sizes we found in this study are comparable to those reported for antidepressants, so I think efficacy is of comparable magnitude.”
While light therapy may sound like a strange treatment option for depression, it is cheaper and less dangerous than Prozac and other SSRI antidepressants, which have all been linked to birth defects in babies whose mothers took the drugs while pregnant. Birth defects like PPHN, neural tube defects, autism and other developmental disorders are all caused by antidepressants and if this light therapy proves to be accurate, and it may an excellent alternative worth looking into.