Antidepressants (Depression Medications)

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is an antidepressant medication?

Depression is a serious condition that often can be effectively treated with available therapies. Many antidepressants have been developed over the years. The newer classes of antidepressants are better tolerated and associated with fewer drug interactions than the older class of antidepressants. Side effects and drug interactions are barriers to successful treatment. Some side effects of antidepressants resolve with continued use while other side effects can be managed by dose reduction or adding other therapies. Appropriate management of side effects and avoidance of drugs that may interact with antidepressants may improve the success of antidepressant therapy.

This article discusses side effects and potential drug interactions of the major antidepressant classes.

How do antidepressants work?

Antidepressants are the most prescribed drug for depression. The exact mechanism of action of antidepressants is unknown.

  • The prevailing theory is that antidepressants increase the concentration of one or more brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that nerves in the brain use to communicate with one another.
    • The neurotransmitters affected by antidepressants are norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.
    • The different classes of antidepressants differ in the neurotransmitters they affect. This determines some of their side effects and potential drug interactions.
  • All available antidepressants are effective, and for most cases of depression there is no good evidence that any antidepressant is more effective than another.
  • Side effects, potential drug interactions, and therapy compliance are major factors that influence a doctor's selection of antidepressants for a patient.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/14/2016

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