Short-term use of conjunctive benzodiazepines and antidepressants might improve information processing in the acute treatment period and at 1-year follow-up in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), according to study results published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Researchers conducted a prospective study of 402 Chinese patients with MDD treated with combined benzodiazepine (<3 months) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) therapy (n=49) or SSRI therapy alone (n=353). The study was completed over 3 separate stages, which included a case-control study, a diagnostic testing phase, and a longitudinal study. The longitudinal study consisted of an 8-week phase and an 88-week stable treatment phase, respectively. Depressive symptoms and cognitive function were measured at the start of therapy, at 8 weeks, and at 48-weeks using multiple assessment tools, including the Digit Symbol Coding Test (DSCT).
After analysis, the researchers found that after adjusting for baseline factors, DSCT scores were marginally higher in patients treated with combined benzodiazepine and SSRI therapy vs SSRI therapy alone at 8 weeks (odds ratio, 1.052; 95% CI, 1.000-1.105). In addition, a variance analysis showed that combined treatment may improve DSCT scores at 1 year compared with baseline (F score, 7.569; P =.006).
Key limitations of the study were the small sample size and the lack of a healthy control group.
“In clinical practice, we recommend the combination of short-term use of [benzodiazepines] at acute treatment phase in MDD patients who regularly take antidepressants [because this] could improve some of the patients’ cognitive symptoms,” the researchers wrote.
Yanping D, Jing W, Wenqi G, et al. The effect of short-term use of benzodiazepines on cognitive function of major depressive disorder patients being treated with antidepressants. J Affect Disord. 2019;256:1-7.