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Use of T3 Thyroid Hormone to Treat Depression

An article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry shows that a thyroid hormone called T3 can be used to treat post traumatic stress disorder, commonly seen in soldiers and people who have been through other causes of terrible emotional trauma. Drugs are far more effective in treating depression than psychotherapy, and when simple antidepressant drugs fail to control depression, doctors often add the thyroid hormone called T3 (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10).

T3 is also used to treat obsessive-compulsive behavior (11). The dominant theory today is that depression is caused by low brain levels of the neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine. Drugs used to treat depression, such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, are supposed to raise brain levels of these neurotransmitters. Doctors can also raise brain levels of serotonin by prescribing pills containing T3, a hormone converted from T4 that is produced by the thyroid gland (1), by itself or together with antidepressants.

Depression is common among people who have too much or too little thyroid hormone. Doctors usually treat low thyroid function with just T4, also known as Levothroid, and many people become even more depressed when they receive this treatment. Then, doctors should add T3 and decrease the dose of T4 to treat this depression.

Depression Treatment if taking T4 (levothyroid):

1) If you now take 100 mcg of Levothroid (T4):
2) Lower T4 (Levothroid) to 50 mcg and add Cytomel (T3) 5 mcg each day.
3) One month later, have your doctor draw blood for TSH.
4) If it is normal, you are on the correct dose and should get blood tests TSH once a year.
5) If TSH is too high, increase Cytomel to 10 mcg and hold Levothroid at 50.
6) Draw monthly TSH until it is normal. Keep on raising Cytomel by 5 mcg until TSH is normal.

1) , Weissel. Treatment of psychiatric diseases with thyroid hormones. Acta Medica Austriaca, 1999, Vol 26, Iss 4, pp 129-131.

2) H Heuer, MKH Schafer, K Bauer.Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone (TRH), a signal peptide of the central nervous system.Acta Medica Austriaca, 1999, Vol 26, Iss 4, pp 119-122.

3) F Konig, C vonHippel, T Petersdorff, W Kaschka.Antithyroid antibodies in depressive diseases.Acta Medica Austriaca, 1999, Vol 26, Iss 4, pp 126-128.

4) A Steiger.Thyroid gland and sleep.Acta Medica Austriaca, 1999, Vol 26, Iss 4, pp 132-133.

5) Jackson IM .Thyroid 1998 Oct;8(10):951-6.

6) Refractory depression: treatment strategies, with particular reference to the thyroid axis. Joffe RT . J Psychiatry Neurosci 1997 Nov;22(5):327-31.

7) Thyroid hormones in depressive disorders: a reappraisal of clinical utility. Lasser RA , Baldessarini RJ, Harv Rev Psychiatry 1997 Mar-Apr;4(6):291-305.

8) The hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis in major depression.Sullivan PF , Wilson DA , Mulder RT , Joyce PR Acta Psychiatr Scand 1997 May;95(5):370-8.

9) S RamschakSchwarzer, W Radkohl, C Stiegler, HP Dimai, G Leb. Interaction between psychotropic drugs and thyroid hormone metabolism - an overview. Acta Medica Austriaca, 2000, Vol 27, Iss 1, pp 8-10.

10) SK Rack, EH Makela. Hypothyroidism and depression: A therapeutic challenge. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 2000, Vol 34, Iss 10, pp 1142-1145.

11) Triiodothyronine augmentation of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in posttraumatic stress disorder. O Agid, AY Shalev, B Lerer. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2001, Vol 62, Iss 3, pp 169-173

Checked 8/9/14

May 31st, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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