Drug-free medical breakthrough helps treat depression

Drug-free medical breakthrough helps treat depression
Published: Oct. 20, 2016 at 8:30 PM CDT|Updated: Nov. 10, 2016 at 3:43 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Mid-South is the home of blues music, but many of the people living here are another type of blue.

Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas are all ranked in the top 6 for states with the highest number of people diagnosed with depression.

Now, a new drug-free medical breakthrough could change all of that.

"I don't think I've been off anti-depressants since the late 80s," Elizabeth, a Mid-Southerner who is seeking treatment for depression, said.

Elizabeth said her decades-long fight with severe depression has really taken its toll.

Psychiatrist Dr. Valerie Agustus said there is a new hope for people like Elizabeth. It's called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS).

The non-invasive procedure utilizes magnets to stimulate certain parts of your brain.

"Just like you would in an MRI machine--same technology--and you're applying that magnet to a very specific portion of the brain," Agustus said.

The procedure requires no anesthesia or any drugs. Patients just sit comfortably while electromagnetic signals stimulate the release of mood-altering chemicals in their brain.

Doctors and patients said the effects of TMS can last months or even years.

"I remember waking up and waking up and feeling good and things are good and everything's going to be alright," Elizabeth said.

In 2011 the National Center for Health Statistics estimated that one in every 10 Americans took anti-depressants. One of the major benefits of TMS therapy is that patients feel good enough to lower their dosage or even stop taking anti-depressants altogether.

The most common side effect of TMS is occasional headaches, but for success stories like Elizabeth, that risk is well worth taking.

Elizabeth is so satisfied with TMS she would like to take the procedure home and medicate herself.

"I don't know why they don't let you buy the hood and let you do it yourself at home," Elizabeth said.

Doctors said the TMS hood is a sophisticated medical device. They warn that playing around with strong magnets at home could be very dangerous.

"That's really not safe, because you don't know the dose, you don't know how long you should leave it on, and you can actually be harming yourself," Agustus said.

Paying for TMS out of pocket can run you around $10,000.

The good news is most major insurance companies now cover the treatment, according to Augustus.

"When you hear patients start telling you how 'I was here and all of a sudden I'm going out and socializing.' 'I'm now able to be more physical and exercise.' 'I'm able to go out and enjoy life more.' That's the whole reason you treat patients," Agustus said.

Check with your doctor if you think TMS could help you.

Here are some other links so you can read more about TMS and how it works: here and here.

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