• antidepressants;
  • depression, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease



Depression, like adverse events and psychological stress, can trigger relapse in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); however, the effects of psychoactive drugs on disease course are unclear.


Using retrospective electronic case note review, after exclusion of five patients on low-dose tricyclic antidepressants we compared the course of IBD in 29 patients (14 ulcerative colitis and 15 Crohn's disease), during the years before (year 1) and after (year 2) they were started on an antidepressant for a concomitant mood disorder to that of controls matched for age, sex, disease type, medication at baseline, and relapse rate in year 1.


Patients had fewer relapses and courses of steroids in the year after starting an antidepressant than in the year before (1 [0–4] (median [range]) vs. 0 [0–4], P = 0.002; 1 [0–3] vs. 0 [0–4], P < 0.001, respectively); the controls showed no changes between years 1 and 2 in relapses (1 [0–4] vs. 1 [0–3], respectively) or courses of steroids (1 [0–2] vs. 0 [0–3]). Although there were no differences in the use of other relapse-related medications, outpatient attendances, or hospital admissions, the number of endoscopies fell significantly in the antidepressant group in year 2 compared with year 1 (P < 0.01). No such changes were seen in the controls.


Antidepressants, when used to treat concomitant mood disorders in IBD, seem to reduce relapse rates, use of steroids, and endoscopies in the year after their introduction. These results suggest the need for a prospective controlled trial to evaluate their effects on disease course in patients with IBD. (Inflamm Bowel Dis 2011;)