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New method found effective in treating alcoholism, depression

Both depression and alcoholism are incredibly destructive psychological diseases that affect millions of people all around the globe. For years, researchers have been studying these diseases in an effort to combat their destructive effects. Now researchers studying patients with depression and harmful drinking in India may have found a better way to provide psychological interventions.

In two studies published in PLOS Medicine by Vikram Patel of Harvard Medical School, analysis points to brief psychological interventions delivered by lay counselors in primary care as a cost-effective – as well as just plain effective – way to assist patients with alcoholism and depression. Lay counselors are counselors trained to provided a specific service or perform certain limited activities within a community.

The two forms of intervention used in this study were previously reported on by the same authors at 3 months. However, their longer-term benefits were not known until now. The Healthy Activity Program (HAP) and Counselling for Alcohol Programs (CAP) were the two programs studied.

In studying the HAP, 493 adult primary health care attendees with moderately severe to severe depression were randomly assigned either the HAP treatment plus enhanced usually care (EUC) or just EUC alone. After a 12-month period, the researchers found that HAP participants maintained the benefits they had shown at 3 months, with lower symptom severity scores and higher rates of remission than the participants who received EUC alone.

In studying CAP, 377 adult male primary health care attendees with harmful drinking were randomly assigned either the CAP treatment plus EUC, or just EUC alone. The results showed that through a 12-month period, CAP participants maintained the gains they exhibited at the end of the 3-month treatment, with higher remission rates and a greater number reporting no alcohol consumptions in the last 14 days than those who receive EUC alone.

The authors also found that both HAP and CAP were likely to be cost-effective, and if productivity costs were taken into account, they could even save money.

By Connor Ertz, Staff Writer

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