Medications for Depression
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Here are the basics about each of the medicines below. Only the most common reactions are listed. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special steps. Use each of these drugs as advised by your doctor or the booklet they came with. If you have any questions, call your doctor.
There are many types of antidepressants. It may take some time to find the one that works best for you. Sometimes, you may only need to have the dose changed. In most cases, it can take 4-6 weeks for the full effect of the medicine to be in place.
Don't stop taking these on your own, even if you feel better. When you feel better, you may think you no longer need medicine, but this isn't true. If the medicine isn't working as expected, talk to your doctor. Some of these need to be tapered down to avoid withdrawal symptoms. You and your doctor will decide how long you need to take them. It's different for each person.
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs help with serotonin, a brain chemical that plays a role in depression. These may be the first choice if you need to try medicine.
Don't drink alcohol while taking an SSRI. Don't take SSRIs if you've taken a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in recent weeks.
Some problems are:
Serotonin/Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRIs help with serotonin and norepinephrine. They work as well as SSRIs.
Some problems are:
These work on more than 1 chemical in your brain. But they are toxic if taken in large doses. They're not used for people who think about taking their own life. Tricyclics don't cause addiction.
Some problems are:
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
Common names include:
MAOIs will keep brain chemicals from being broken down. These may help people who haven't had success with other types of medicine.
If you take MAOI, you will need to make changes in how you eat to keep a certain substance called tyramine from building up in your body. Not doing so can cause a hypertensive crisis, which can lead to death.
You will have to avoid:
Some other problems are:
MAOIs can cause problems when mixed with many other types of drugs, even other antidepressants. Ask your doctor about what you will need to avoid.
There are many other types that work in different ways. These change the levels of brain chemicals that keep your moods level.
Nefazodone has been associated with reports of life-threatening liver failure. People with liver disease shouldn't take it. Those who are taking nefazodone are advised to report liver problems right away. These may be jaundice, loss of hunger, feeling ill, and problems with your gastrointestinal system.
Some problems are:
If you are taking medicines:
When to Contact Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if you:
Get help right away if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others.
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Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 12/11/2020
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