Treatment Options - SAM-e

SAMe, known formally as S-adenosylmethionine, is a naturally occurring molecule that is present in all human cells. It is involved in important chemical reactions inside cells that help regulate neurotransmitters, hormones, gene expression, and the energy that powers cells. 

There is a synthetic version of SAMe that you can take as a dietary supplement in the United States. In some European countries, synthetic SAMe is a prescription drug. 

Over 40 different studies, starting in the 1970s, have been conducted on SAMe and its link to treating depression. Several studies have shown that taking SAMe has a positive impact on those with depression, but the overall evidence is not conclusive. It is an option to explore if you strongly prefer an alternative to traditional antidepressant medication. 

Medical Benefits of SAMe

Research has been conducted for decades on the synthetic use of SAMe. It has been shown to be helpful with three different conditions.

For depression, some studies on SAMe have looked into using the supplement by itself as a primary treatment. Other studies have looked into using SAMe as a secondary treatment for depression, in combination with another depression medication. 

SAMe has been shown to have a positive effect on people with depression. Most of the studies were small, and more research is needed to understand the impact of SAMe fully on depression. 

Dr. Richard Brown, MD, who is an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, discusses some of the evidence for using SAMe in depression here

SAMe has also been shown as potentially beneficial for people with liver disease and with osteoarthritis, although more research is needed into both of these potential health benefits. 

Side Effects of SAMe

SAMe should not be taken if you are taking prescription antidepressants, as it can lead to serious side effects. Taking SAme is not a substitute for medical diagnosis and treatment. 

People who have bipolar disorder should not take SAMe, as it has been shown to trigger mania. 

You should also not take SAMe if you have a compromised immune system. You could be at an increased risk of an infection by the bacteria Pneumocystis. 

More common side effects of SAMe include:

  • Digestive issues such as nausea, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Mild insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating

SAMe can also cause interactions with a number of other drugs, putting you at risk of serotonin syndrome. Don’t take SAMe with antidepressants.

You should also be careful taking SAMetaking alongside antipsychotics, amphetamines, dextromethorphan, narcotics, and St. John’s wort. It can also reduce the effectiveness of levodopa, a medication used to treat Parkinson’s disease

Taking SAMe for Depression

SAMe is not something you can obtain through changes in your diet. To increase SAMe in your body, you have to take it as a supplement. SAMe can be taken orally, through a muscular injection, or by IV.

SAMe and other supplements for depression are not a substitute for psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. Although supplements may not require a prescription, certain supplements are more safely used under the guidance of a physician.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA like medications, so you should only purchase supplements from brands that have been evaluated for quality. Supplements are not FDA-approved to treat depression.

SAMe for Treating Depression

Finding the proper treatment when you have treatment-resistant depression can be challenging. SAMe can be used alongside other depression treatment options. 

At Options MD, our psychiatrists can discuss the potential risks and benefits of using supplements when putting together a custom plan for your treatment-resistant depression. 

Do you have questions?

Options MD is here to help. Text us to start treatment now. Join our Facebook community to connect with other individuals with treatment-resistant depression.

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