How Do Anti-Depressants Work
Antidepressants primarily work on brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, especially serotonin and norepinephrine. Other antidepressants work on the neurotransmitter dopa- mine. Scientists have found that these particular chemicals are involved in regulating mood, but they are unsure of the exact ways that they work. The latest information on medica- tions for treating depression is available on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website at http://www.fda.gov.
Popular newer antidepressants
Some of the newest and most popular antidepressants are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Fluox- etine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), and citalopram (Celexa) are some of the most commonly prescribed SSRIs for depression. Most are available in generic versions. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are similar to SSRIs and include venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
SSRIs and SNRIs tend to have fewer side effects than older antidepressants, but they sometimes produce headaches, nausea, jitters, or insomnia when people first start to take them. These symptoms tend to fade with time. Some people also experience sexual problems with SSRIs or SNRIs, which may be helped by adjusting the dosage or switching to another medication.
How effective are SSRI antidepressants?
About 5-7 in 10 people with moderate or severe depression have an improvement in symptoms within a few weeks of starting treatment with an antidepressant. However, up to 3 in 10 people improve with dummy tablets (placebos), as some people would have improved in this time naturally. People who suffer from depression are twice as likely to improve with an antidepressant compared with taking no treatment. But, they do not work in everybody. As a rule, the more severe the depression, the greater the chance that an antidepressant will work well.
One popular antidepressant that works on dopamine is bupropion (Wellbutrin). Bupropion tends to have similar side effects as SSRIs and SNRIs, but it is less likely to cause sexual side effects. However, it can increase a person’s risk for seizures.