Understanding the real purpose of Antidepressants

What is the real purpose of Antidepressants? Do Antidepressants really help patients with chronic depression?


Antidepressants are medications generally used to treat depression, though they are sometimes prescribed for other reasons. The use of this type of medication and the different medicines on the antidepressants list has increased dramatically in just the last few years. The following information discusses what antidepressant medications do, their history, why they are sometimes prescribed, lists of different types of antidepressants, and possible side effects associated with them.

Antidepressant Medications

Antidepressant Medications

Specific chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters are often associated with depression. Antidepressants work in the brain by affecting particular neurotransmitters. There has been an overall increase in the use of these types of medications in recent years. Medicalnewstoday.com states three general reasons why the increase has occurred. The reasons cited include increased awareness and a broad concept regarding the need for mental health treatment, the increase in public campaigns and awareness concerning mental health issues, and the fact that mental health treatment has become more accepted by the public.

According to Harvard Medical School, 23 per cent of women in their 40s and 50s take antidepressants. This is the largest group by age or sex taking this type of medication. The same report by Harvard stated that the use of antidepressants doesn’t vary by income status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that 11 per cent of Americans aged 12 and older take antidepressant medication.

History of Antidepressants

Before the 1950s, opioids, which included amphetamines and methamphetamines, were used to treat depression. However, the first modern antidepressant was discovered primarily by chance in the 1950s. Scientists in Switzerland were seeking treatment for schizophrenia when they discovered a drug that helped tweak the neurotransmitters in the brain. This drug didn’t help those with schizophrenia, but Who soon knew that this pill would work for patients with depression. This particular medication was called Imipramine and was marketed under the brand name Tofranil in 1958. Competition for similar medications brought forth tricyclic drugs in the following years.

These drugs relieved more than 60 per cent of those suffering from depression, but They involved serious side effects. Some side effects were feeling sluggish, gaining weight, and even overdosing. By 1987 Prozac was marketed in the United States and had become extremely popular. In 1990 Prozac became the country’s most widely prescribed antidepressant. By 2010 Zoloft and Celexa had surpassed Prozac as the bestselling medication used to treat depression in the United States. The US isn’t the only country with a high rate of antidepressant use. Australia, Iceland, and Canada are the three top consumers of antidepressant drugs.

Why Antidepressants Are Prescribed

While antidepressant medication is primarily prescribed for depression, those Who may use other conditions can also use these medications for treating anxiety, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), certain types of phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even bulimia. They are also occasionally prescribed for individuals suffering from chronic nerve pain. Some of the specific conditions in which these drugs may ease pain include arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraines, pelvic pain, low back pain, and nerve damage that results from diabetes, shingles, stroke, and spinal cord injury.

There are several things to consider when finding the right antidepressant for each individual. A few considerations a doctor will keep in mind include each individual’s specific symptoms, other medications the person is on, potential side effects, and if the individual is pregnant or nursing. In addition, different countries have various factors and standards when prescribing these types of drugs.

List of Antidepressants

There are several types of medications used to treat depression. According to The Royal College of Psychiatrists, they are primarily divided into five general categories with include SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), SNRIs (Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors), NASSAs (Noradrenaline and Specific Serotoninergic Antidepressants), MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors), and Tricyclics.

SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are prescribed more often than most other medications. This is because it’s generally thought these cause fewer side effects than other antidepressants. The following are SSRIs with their generic name, followed by their brand name. Fluoxetine (Prozac), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Sertraline (Zoloft), Paroxetine (Paxil), Citalopram (Celexa), and Escitalopram (Lexapro).

SNRIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) These include Duloxetine (Cymbalta), Levomilnacipran (Fetzima), Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq, Khedezla), Venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

MAOIs (Monoamine oxidase inhibitors) These medications include Tranylcypromine (Parnate), Isocarboxazid (Marplan), and Phenelzine (Nardil).

NASSAs (Noradrenaline and Specific Serotoninergic Antidepressants) Included in this list are Mirtazapine (Avanza) and (Remeron).

Tricyclic Antidepressants These include Nortriptyline (Pamelor), Imipramine (Tofranil), Desipramine (Norpramin), and Protriptyline (Vivactil).

Atypical Medications These don’t easily fit into any of the other categories. Some of these are Trazodone (Oleptro), Vortioxetine (Brintellix), and Mirtazapine (Remeron).

Natural Antidepressants

While many natural remedies for depression may work, they are often untested and unregulated. Individuals should thoroughly research these remedies and discuss their use with a medical professional before taking them. Several dietary and herbal remedies may work naturally as antidepressants.

St. John’s Wort St John’s Wort is a herb known as Hypericum perforatum. Some studies have shown that St. John’s Wort may help treat mild to moderate depression, but not depression that is considered severe. It may take a month or more for the effects of the herb. This herb may decrease the effectiveness of other medications, such as drugs to treat HIV and AIDS, drugs for organ transplant patients, and some types of oral contraceptives. It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids These fats, found in certain food types, are believed to help with normal brain functioning. Therefore, these fatty acids must be obtained through our diet. Rich sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish, fish oil, and cod oil. Fatty acids are generally considered safe with few side effects. In high doses, however, it might interact with other medications.

Folate and Folic Acid These are both types of B vitamins. Folate is found naturally in foods, while folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin. B vitamins are found in leafy green vegetables, beans, fruit, and certain types of fortified grains.

Probiotics: These bacteria throughout the intestinal tract do much more than fighting off harmful invaders. According to the Institute for Natural Healing (INH), gut bacteria make up about 95 per cent of our body’s serotonin. That’s one reason the gut is sometimes called the second brain. Foods high in probiotics include yogurt, miso soup, soy milk, sauerkraut, pickles, and dark chocolate.

SAMe This is a chemical that is found in the body naturally. So who can also make it in a laboratory? Since 1999 SAMe has been available on the market as a dietary supplement. According to the website MedlinePlus, taking SAMe by either mouth or injection is likely to be effective for depression. However, some side effects of SAMe may include insomnia, agitation, and nausea.

Antidepressant Side Effects

Because there are sometimes side effects when using these types of drugs, it may take trying several different kinds of medications before an individual finds one that works best. The best antidepressant will treat the person’s medical problems with few side effects. SSRIs’ side effects (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) include nausea, insomniadizzinessheadaches, diarrhea or constipation, weight loss or weight gain, tremors, sweating, decreased sex drive, dry mouth, anxiety, or fatigue. SSRIs can cause thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior. In addition, individuals taking these medications are at an increased risk of agitation, anxiety, and hostility. These medications can increase the risk of bone loss, falls, and fractures in older adults. SSRIs also cause serious withdrawal symptoms if a person stops taking them suddenly.

Tricyclics and MAOIs are sometimes prescribed after other medications have not worked. These drugs can have serious side effects. MAOIs can especially have side effects regarding interactions with various foods. MAOIs can have serious, even fatal, interactions with pickles, cheeses, and wines. They can also interact with decongestants, birth control pills, and some herbal supplements. MAOIs in patch form may cause fewer side effects than the other types. These types of medications are not to be used in combination with SSRIs. Finally, teens and young adults seem at the greatest risk for suicide when taking medications for depression.

When considering taking an antidepressant to treat depression, an individual should thoroughly discuss all the options with their doctor. Each individual’s symptoms, family history, and medical history are just a few factors one should consider before deciding on a certain type of medication or an overall course of treatment.