To date, TMS treatment for MDD has only been federally approved for use with adults, but use among young people is a likely next step. For adolescents with MDD, antidepressants are not always the best option, and, in some cases have been shown to increase the risk of suicide. According to a 2009 article from the National Institute of Health, detailing the results of federal studies conducted on antidepressants, “No increased risk of suicidality was observed in the overall data for adults, but stratification by age group showed that the odds ratio for suicidality in patients receiving antidepressants decreased as age increased, compared with patients receiving placebo,” that is, adolescents and young adults were more likely to demonstrate suicidal thoughts while taking antidepressants than older adults. “Members of the advisory committee [for this study] found this age-related trend to be compelling, and they voted 6–2 to extend the boxed warning [the strongest warning the FDA can impose] to young adults 19 to 24 years of age.” It is clear that the risks for treating major depression with antidepressants in young people are high, and this is where TMS could step in. Unlike oral antidepressants, that have to pass throughout the entire body before reaching the target of the brain, TMS treats the brain directly, without resulting in increased suicidality. It is clear that an effective, noninvasive, drug free, treatment option that does not put young people at an increased risk is a much needed alternative to traditional treatment methods.
There is hope. Neuronetics is currently evaluating the safety and efficacy of Neurostar TMS treatment in adolescents. The primary focus of the study is to understand whether or not TMS treatment is as effective in treating major depression in adolescents as it has been in treating adults. This evaluation includes: understanding durability (how successful the treatment is over time), understanding the acute and long-term safety of the treatment, as well as the benefits of using TMS as an acute or extended treatment course for adolescents who have exhausted traditional treatment options. This important study is currently recruiting participants in California, and in 12 other locations across the country, and is likely just the beginning in a long line of future TMS treatment possibilities.