Antidepressants targeting monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems, despite their immediate effects at the synaptic level, usually require several weeks of administration to achieve clinical efficacy. The authors propose a strategy of adding creatine monohydrate (creatine) to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) in the treatment of patients with major depressive disorder. Such augmentation may lead to a more rapid onset of antidepressant effects and a greater treatment response, potentially by restoring brain bioenergetics at the cellular level.
Fifty-two women with major depressive disorder were enrolled in an 8-week double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and randomly assigned to receive escitalopram in addition to either creatine (5 g/day, N=25) or placebo (N=27). Efficacy was primarily assessed by changes in the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) score.
In comparison to the placebo augmentation group, patients receiving creatine augmentation showed significantly greater improvements in HAM-D score, as early as week 2 of treatment. This differential improvement favoring creatine was maintained at weeks 4 and 8. There were no differences between treatment groups in the proportion of patients who discontinued treatment prematurely (creatine: N=8, 32.0%; placebo: N=5, 18.5%) or in the overall frequency of all reported adverse events (creatine: 36 events; placebo: 45 events).
The current study suggests that creatine augmentation of SSRI treatment may be a promising therapeutic approach that exhibits more rapid and efficacious responses in women with major depressive disorder.