Device: Diastim: 350 Hz, 0.7 mS, 1 – 1.2 mA, rectangular monophasic pulses, cathodes over orbits, anodes over mastoids

21 psychiatric inpatients suffering major depressive disorders according to DSM III-R criteria were divided into 2 groups for this double-blind study. The active CES group (N = 10) had 3 males and 7 females (age 44.9  10.3) with an average length of depressive illness of 56 months (1 – 156). The placebo group (N = 11) had 3 males and 8 females (age 36.4  13.8) with an average length of depressive illness of 64 months (5 – 222). All patients completed informed consent. The treatment withdrawn upon admission consisted of benzodiazepines (9 of 10 active and 8 of 11 placebo), barbituates (1 of 10 active), antidepressant drugs (5 of 10 active and 8 of 11 placebo), and neuroleptics (1 of 10 active and 1 of 11 placebo). The study began on the first drug-free day. Depressive pathology was evaluated daily by the Montgomery and Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). Sleep was evaluated using a sleep diary and questionnaire. Analogic self-rating scales evaluated anxiety, fatigue, arousal, and life events. Student’s paired t-test was used to analyze the data. During the 5 day washout period, the natural development of symptoms consists of a rise in anxiety and an exacerbation of sleep disorders. In 2 cases, benzodiazepine withdrawal induced epileptic seizures in pts devoid of epileptic history. These seizures did not occur during CES sessions. The depressive criteria in the CES group paralleled that in the placebo group. Anxiety and sleep criteria showed divergent changes between groups. Anxiety on MADRS was exacerbated in the placebo group but reduced in the CES group (P<.01). The same was true of the ninth criteria of MADRS, pessimism about the future and feelings of guilt and failure. There was no other significant changes on MADRS in either group. Sleep duration improved in the CES treatment group, but was significantly worsened in the placebo group (P<.05). Feelings of fatigue and alertness revealed a positive change in the CES group (P<.05), but not in the placebo group. The authors concluded that the effects of a drug washout period are markedly attenuated by cerebral electrostimulation, which is of possible interest in the management of psychotropic drug withdrawal. No side effects were reported.

Philip, P., Demotes-Mainard, J., Bourgeois, M. and Vincent, J.D. Efficiency of transcranial electrostimulation on anxiety and insomnia symptoms during a washout period in depressed patients; a double-blind study. Biological psychiatry. 29:451-456, 1991.