In the final part of this look at the supplement S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) and treatment of depression, I wrap up with some key information you need to know. It centers on what will make it most effective for you, as well as safety issues that everyone should know about.
Here are three interesting studies that reveal some must-know facts about SAMe’s treatment of depression:
FAST: It starts working quickly. It takes a month or more for most antidepressants to start working. But one study found that SAMe started working in between one and two weeks.
HELPS DRUGS: Used with an antidepressant, SAMe seems to make improve the effect. In a study with 40 depression patients, half received 200 milligrams (mg) a day of SAMe and the other half received placebo during the first two weeks. At the start of week three, everybody started taking a mainstream antidepressant at 150 mg a day. Results showed that those taking SAMe plus the drug had earlier reduction in symptoms.
BETTER THAN DRUGS: Works for people who haven’t responded well to antidepressants. SAMe was tried in 30 patients who didn’t respond well to SSRI antidepressant drugs in the past. Using the alternative supplement boosted the effect of antidepressants to a response rate of 50%, instead of one that was much lower.
It is always useful to know the potential side effects with any treatment you take. SAMe supplements can trigger the following adverse effects: headache, insomnia, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, sweating, nervousness, and dry mouth. At the same time, they may not trigger any of them.
If SAMe is taken along with either SSRIs or tricyclic antidepressants, it can raise your serotonin levels to the point of experiencing “serotonin syndrome.” Symptoms of this include vomiting, restlessness, shakiness, confusion, excitement, fever, hallucinations, and a loss of muscle coordination. See a doctor right away if this is suspected. Also, if you’re taking antidepressants, talk to your doctor about SAMe before you add it to your regimen.
There are some drug/supplement interactions to know:
— Painkillers: Tramadol, pentazocine or meperidine. Can raise serotonin levels overly high.
— Dextromethorphan (cough syrup): It’s found in many non-prescription cough and cold products. Combined with SAMe, it can raise your serotonin levels and possibly bring on side effects.
— Levodopa: SAMe taken with levodopa may worsen symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
— Supplements: Consult your doctor first if you are taking St. John’s wort, 5-HTP, Hawaiian baby woodrose, or L-tryptophan.
Over the last 30 years, there has been credible evidence to suggest that SAMe is effective in the treatment of depression, alone or in combination with antidepressant drugs. However, both the diagnosis and treatment of depression require professional help from your doctor. You should not try to self-medicate with a dietary supplement such as SAMe or St. John’s wort for depression without the prior knowledge and approval of your physician.