Antidepressant Drugs

Antidepressant drugs are prescription medications given for the treatment of moderate, severe, or chronic depressive disorders.

Antidepressant drugs are prescribed to treat the symptoms of depressive disorders. In clinical depression, the central nervous system does not typically produce enough of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. One class of antidepressants, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) act by keeping more serotonin circulating in the brain. The selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) act similarly on the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Both are considered effective antidepressants, and both have similar side effects, primarily affecting sexual desire and performance. Several of the antidepressants have warnings from the FDA, informing physicians and patients of the potential for increased suicide risks in the first few weeks after starting the medication. This is because the antidepressants improve energy level and motor activity faster than improving depressed mood, and patients may now have energy to act upon suicidal thoughts.

A third class of drug, called atypical antidepressants, tend to be somewhat more sedating than the SSRIs or SNRIs, may act more quickly, and often decrease anxiety. The tricyclics are the oldest class of antidepressants. They are not among the first prescribed any longer, because they have more significant side effects. They are sometimes used as adjuncts for the SSRIs or SNRIs, to increase effectiveness. The monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are the least prescribed antidepressants, because they have many dietary restrictions associated with use and can produce life-threatening or even fatal side effects if not carefully monitored. Once depressive symptoms are manageable, it is possible for the diagnosed individual to participate in other forms of therapy.

See also Antianxiety drugs ; Depression ; Neurotransmitter .



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American Psychiatric Association, 1000 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 1825, Arlington, VA, 22209, (703) 907-7300, (888) 3577924),, .