Study testing aspirin as bipolar disorder treatment

October 22, 2012 4:58:54 PM PDT
A drug that you have in your medicine cabinet may be helpful in treating bipolar disorder. The illness affects almost six million Americans, and its mood swings from extreme happiness to extreme depression has ruined lives. But now, some Houston researchers believe aspirin may help.

Leanna Yanez was living a nightmare.

"I'd just wander the streets, and I'd have my kids and I'd leave them for days," Yanez said.

She would disappear, then reappear and sleep for days. She lost her children for three years. But she has her children again, after successful treatment for her severe bipolar disorder, which is also called manic depression.

"Bipolar is a true illness of the brain. People have mood swings that are extreme. Their judgement is extremely impaired and they make poor and risky decisions," UTHealth psychiatrist Dr. Prashnat Gajwani said.

The right medicines gave Yanez a second chance.

"Finally able to work a stable job, I'm very proud of that. I'm finally able to try to prove I'm responsible," Yanez said.

Now she will be a patient in a new study, testing aspirin to see if it helps. It will be added to her other medicines.

"It's kinda nice because a lot of drugs out there are kinda expensive," Yanez said.

UTHealth researchers believe inflammation in the brain may be linked to the depression in bipolar disorder and aspirin fights inflammation.

"We're hoping that the addition of aspirin would reduce inflammation in the brain and that would improve their depressive symptoms so they won't be as depressed," Dr. Gajwani said.

Using aspirin for neuroinflammation is new. But researchers now believe inflammation in the brain can play a role in mental health disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar and depression, and also in Parkinson's and MS.

If it works, the simple painkiller could help Yanez keep the progress she's made against a very complicated brain disorder.

The bipolar disorder aspirin study is now accepting patients. If you are interested in the study, call UTHealth at 713-486-2627.


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