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Self-Medicating With SAM-e

A new dietary supplement called SAM-e is being introduced in the U.S. to treat depression, arthritis pain, and even liver problems. It has been used successfully to provide pain relief for over 20 years in Europe, reports CBS News Health Contributor Dr. Bernadine Healy.

SAM-e is an over-the-counter medication that differs from herbal supplements.

While it probably won't hurt to try this product out, buyers should be cautious because there is no long-term proof it is safe and effective, according to Dr. Healy.

SAM-e works like an anti-inflammatory drug in treating arthritis and at least one study shows it may also repair cartilage. It has been found effective in treating clinical depression without side effects including headaches, sleepnessness and sexual dysfunction.

"Small studies in Europe, but which involve 22,000 patients, found that SAM-e releives the pain of arthritis as well as the anti-inflammatories without the stomach problems," says Dr. Healy.

Buyers shouldn't run out and buy this supplement in lieu of their regular medication. It may sound promising but it isn't a cure-all for serious health problems.

While SAM-e has been used just as successfully as many antidepressant drugs, there are many other medications available.

"The recommendation now is to take it in tablet form - 400 mg - twice a day. And even supporters of the supplement say don't go off your regular medicine and substitute this supplement. Talk to your doctor first," Dr. Healy advises.

SAM-e is a prescription drug in Europe but because studies have not been conducted on its long-term effects, it has not yet been endorsed as a drug in the U.S.

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