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Carrington College Blog

New Study – Mindfulness as Effective as Antidepressants

April 22, 2015

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may work as well as antidepressants, new study finds.In the field of pharmacy technology, antidepressants have long been established as a treatment method for this mental health disorder. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry suggests that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be as effective as these pills.

The study, published in the Lancet, may provide evidence for rethinking how antidepressants are prescribed.

With hundreds of millions of people suffering from depression around the world, finding long-term treatment options is of continuing importance. For the time being, antidepressants are often used for long durations of time, but many patients find it challenging to remain on the pills. MBCT is one method that lead to better patient outcomes and give patients the opportunity to try other treatments before relying on medication.

Research and Findings

Over the course of a year and a half, researchers assessed more than 2,000 potential participants, eventually identifying 424 patients across 95 medical practices. These participants were divided into two groups – 212 were randomly assigned to MBCT while the other 212 were given antidepressants. The first group regularly attended group mindfulness sessions and gradually came off antidepressants while the other group remained on the same regimen of antidepressants during the two-year trial period.

The team followed up with both groups afterward to monitor recurrence of depression. Researchers found that 44 percent of the MBCT group had a relapse of depression while 47 percent of the antidepressant group relapsed.This lead researchers to the conclusion that the treatments were about equally effective.

“Currently, maintenance antidepressant medication is the key treatment for preventing relapse, reducing the likelihood of relapse or recurrence by up to two-thirds when taken correctly,” said study co-author Professor Richard Byng, from the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, UK, in a news release.2

Byng continued, “However, there are many people who, for a number of different reasons, are unable to keep on a course of medication for depression. Moreover, many people do not wish to remain on medication for indefinite periods, or cannot tolerate its side effects.”

Considering both of these treatment methods provide similar patient outcomes, MBCT could prove to be beneficial for those with depression who do not want to be on medication.

One participant commented, “Mindfulness gives me a set of skills which I use to keep well in the long term. Rather than relying on the continuing use of antidepressants mindfulness puts me in charge, allowing me to take control of my own future, to spot when I am at risk and to make the changes I need to stay well.”

What is MBCT?

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has some similarities to cognitive behavioral therapy, but also includes meditative practices and an emphasis on mindfulness, according to practice has been endorsed by the UK National Institute of Clinical Excellence and is renowned for helping those with depression take control of their emotions. Put simply, MBCT works by encouraging patients to become aware of negative emotions and consciously disengage with them.

“Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): a randomised controlled trial,” by Dr Willem Kuyken, Rachel Hayes, Barbara Barrett, Richard Byng, Tim Dalgleish, David Kessler, Glyn Lewis, Edward Watkins, Claire Brejcha, Jessica Cardy, Aaron Causley, Suzanne Cowderoy, Alison Evans, Felix Gradinger, Surinder Kaur, Paul Lanham, Nicola Morant, Jonathan Richards, Pooja Shah, Harry Sutton, Rachael Vicary, Alice Weaver, Jenny Wilks, Matthew Williams, Rod S Taylor, Sarah Byford, the Lancet, April 20, 2015.

“Mindfulness-based therapy rather than antidepressants to prevent depression relapse?,” University of Plymouth, April 22, 2015.

“Your guide to mindfulness-based cognitive therapy,”