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I was listening to one of those fake interview radio shows last week -- they were pitching DHEA in this particular fake interview. In addition to being effective for - well - just about anything that might ail you - they mentioned it for depression.

Anyhow, I decided to google it the next day anyhow - expecting to find nothing or that it was harmful. It sounded vaguely familiar, as one of those fake miracle cures that cure everything (I was confusing it with DES - Diethylstilbestrol).

To my surprise, there is actually some good studies (double-blind with placebo controls) - showing that DHEA does have an antidepressant effect (linked below). Of course, the conclusions always include the standard disclaimer about "long term effects are not known" and "further research is needed." Which is pretty much true of anything. It appeared to help about 50% of the study subjects - this, I think, compares favorably to the studies of SSRIs. Interestingly, it was noted to be effective for dysthymia and anhedonia (two things hard to treat).

Velvet Elvis - what do you think? Credible?

Anyone tried it? Anyone using it?

Double Blind Treatment of Depression with DHEA - A J Psych April 1999

RESULTS: DHEA was associated with a significantly greater decrease in Hamilton depression scale ratings than was placebo. Five of the 11 patients treated with DHEA, compared with none of the 11 given placebo, showed a 50% decrease or greater in depressive symptoms.

Dehydroepiandrosterone Monotherapy in Midlife-Onset Major and Minor Depression Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62:154-162.

Results Six weeks of DHEA administration was associated with a significant improvement in the 17-Item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale ratings compared with both baseline (P<.01) and 6 weeks of placebo treatment (P<.01). A 50% or greater reduction in baseline Hamilton Depression Rating Scale scores was observed in 23 subjects after DHEA and in 13 subjects after placebo treatments. Six weeks of DHEA treatment also was associated with significant improvements in Derogatis Interview for Sexual Functioning scores relative to baseline and placebo conditions.

Conclusion We find DHEA to be an effective treatment for midlife-onset major and minor depression.

Treatment of Depression With Antiglucocorticoid Drugs

CONCLUSIONS: These promising results with antiglucocorticoid treatment must be interpreted cautiously because of the small sample sizes and heterogeneity of the studies reviewed, the bias favoring publication of positive results, and the open-label nature of most of the studies. Although definitive controlled trials remain to be conducted, there is a consistent body of evidence indicating that cortisol-lowering treatments may be of clinical benefit in select individuals with major depression and other hypercortisolemic conditions.

Mayo clinic info


This site has a lot of info about DHEA, with citations to studies:


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