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Low-Dose Antidepressants could Treat Hot Flashes, Study Finds

Update Date: May 30, 2014 10:56 AM EDT

Menopause is an inevitable part of life that occurs when a woman's menstrual period stops permanently. This natural process involves symptoms such as hot flashes, mood changes and loss of energy. Even though there are treatments available, such as hormone therapy, not all women react in the same way. In a new study, researchers found that a low-dose antidepressant is almost as effective as estrogen therapy in treating hot flashes.

In the study, the researchers headed by Dr. Hadine Joffe from the department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston recruited 339 female participants who suffered from an average of eight hot flashes per day at the start of their menopause. 97 of them were treated with estrogen therapy and were given half a milligram of low-dose estradiol every day. 96 participants took a daily low-dose antidepressant, which was 75 milligrams of venlafaxine, which is the generic form of Effexor. The remaining 146 women took a placebo drug. Treatments lasted eight weeks.

The researchers followed up on the participants after two months. They found that women from the estradiol group suffered from an average of 3.9 hot flashes per day. Women from the venlafaxine group had an average of 4.4 hot flashes per day. The placebo group had 5.5 hot flashes daily. The researchers found that women from the estrogen therapy group were the most satisfied with the effectiveness of the treatment. The researchers added that women from the antidepressant group were relatively happy with their treatment whereas people from the placebo group reported the lowest levels of satisfaction.

The researchers hope that the low-dose antidepressant could become an alternative option for women who do not like hormone therapy. The study, "Low-Dose Estradiol and the Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor Venlafaxine for Vasomotor Symptoms," was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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