Last Updated on November 20, 2021 by Ben Lesser
Medication for depression are not just the most commonly prescribed medication for treating depression, but antidepressants are the most widely prescribed class of drugs on the market among certain groups in the United States. Though medication for depression can be highly effective in helping patients manage the symptoms of depression, it is essential to note that they are not enough to treat moderate to severe depression. In those cases, therapeutic intervention is also needed, and patients are encouraged to take part in a comprehensive treatment program for optimum success in recovery.
Finding the right drug to treat depression can be complex and delicate, not just because getting an accurate depression diagnosis takes time. Some medication for depression can be dangerous if someone has a severe medical condition, such as liver disease, heart disease, or kidney disease. The antidepressant may be inappropriate for you, or the dosage is insufficient; there may not have been enough time to see an impact, or the side effects are too bothersome, resulting in treatment failure.
Keep the Following Points in Mind when You Consider Taking Antidepressants to Treat Depression:
- Since completing their first course of medication, only about 30% of people with depression achieve complete recovery. According to a National Institutes of Health-funded report from 2006, this is the case. Those who improved were more likely to take higher doses over extended periods.
- Certain medication for depression perform better for some people than others. During therapy for depression, it’s not unusual to try various medications.
- For the treatment of depression, some people need more than one prescription.
- Antidepressants come with a boxed warning of an elevated risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in infants, teens, and young adults 18-24 years old as compared to placebo.
You should assess the costs and benefits of treatment with your doctor and find the drug that best relieves your symptoms.
What are Antidepressants?
medication for depression are often used as the first line of treatment for depression, often in conjunction with psychotherapy. If one antidepressant doesn’t work for you, try a different antidepressant from the same class or another class altogether. Your doctor can also change the dosage. Your doctor might advise you to take several medications to treat your depression in some instances.
Since depression affects the brain, medications that target the brain can help. Antidepressants are a popular medication for depression, although there are several other choices. Each drug used to treat depression works by regulating neurotransmitters, which are chemicals found in the brain. These medications function in slightly different ways.
Your doctor can make a depression diagnosis based on the following factors:
- Examination of the body: Your doctor can perform a physical exam and ask you health-related questions. Depression can be related to an underlying physical health issue in some situations.
- Tests in the lab: A full blood count or a thyroid test, for example, can be performed by your doctor to ensure that your thyroid is functioning correctly.
- Evaluation by a psychiatrist: Your mental health provider will inquire about your symptoms, emotions, feelings, and behavior patterns. To help answer these questions, you may be asked to complete a questionnaire.
- DSM-5: The requirements for depression specified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association can be used by your mental health professional.
Classes of Antidepressants
There are many kinds of medication for depression on the market. The one that will work best for you or your loved one will depend upon the symptoms experienced, other medications being taken, and other exceptional circumstances (e.g., pregnancy, breastfeeding, chronic illness, etc.).
The most commonly prescribed type of antidepressants is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include Zoloft, Prozac, and others. Another type of antidepressant is serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) (e.g., Cymbalta, Effexor). One unique medication (unique because it is neither an SSRI nor an SNRI) is bupropion or Wellbutrin. Older antidepressants that are not as commonly prescribed include tricyclics, tetracyclic, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Some medications will work best, but they are often not the first line of defense against depression.
Usual Prescribed Antidepressants
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that the following are the most often prescribed drugs for the treatment of depression:
- Buproprion (e.g., Wellbutrin)
- Citalopram (e.g., Celexa)
- Desvenlafaxine (e.g., Pristiq)
- Duloxetine (e.g., Cymbalta)
- Escitalopram (e.g., Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (e.g., Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (e.g., Luvox)
- Mirtazpine (e.g., Remeron)
- Nefazodone (e.g., Serzone)
- Paroxetine (e.g., Paxil)
- Sertraline (e.g., Zoloft)
- Trazodone (e.g., Desyrel)
- Venlafaxine (e.g., Effexor)
In studies, all of these medications have worked well. However, the HHS noted that only three in five patients generally see improvement in their condition with the first medication for depression they try. Many patients will try various medications and/or combinations and doses to begin to see an effect. Additionally, almost all of the medicines take a few weeks to build up in the system and impact depression symptoms.
Facts on Antidepressants
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the following is valid about the use of medication for depression treatment in the United States:
- Antidepressant drugs were the third most common type of drugs prescribed in the United States between 2005 and 2008 to Americans of all ages.
- Antidepressants were the most frequently prescribed drug to those between 18 and 44.
- Between 1988 and 1994, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants in the US increased by almost 400 percent.
- An estimated 11 percent of the US population takes an antidepressant.
- Women are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than men. The drugs are also more commonly used by Caucasians than other ethnic groups.
- An estimated 33 percent of people diagnosed with severe depression are prescribed antidepressants.
- About 60 percent of those taking antidepressants have been doing so for more than two years; about 14 percent have been taking them for a decade or longer.
- Less than 33 percent of patients taking a single antidepressant and less than 50 percent of patients taking more than one antidepressant have seen a mental health specialist in the past 12 months.
Natural treatments for depression can pique your interest. Some people use these therapies in place of narcotics, and others use them in addition to their medication for depression. Some people have tried St. John’s wort as a treatment for depression. The herb may have slight positive effects, or it may not perform any better than placebo, according to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative HealthTrusted Source. This herb also triggers a slew of potentially dangerous drug interactions.
The Following Substances Interact with St. John’s Wort:
- Antiseizure Drugs
- Birth Control Pills
- Warfarin (coumadin)
- Prescription Antidepressants
In addition, taking St. John’s wort with some medication for depression can make them less efficient. Another natural alternative that some people have sought to alleviate their depression symptoms is the supplement S-adenosyl-L-methionine. It may aid in the treatment of joint pain, but there isn’t much evidence that it aids in the treatment of depression. Prescription drugs may interfere with this treatment.
Other Treatment Options
Other Treatments, Known as Brain Stimulation Therapies, May Be Recommended for Certain People:
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Electrical currents are transmitted through the brain during ECT to influence neurotransmitters’ role and impact in the brain, which helps to reduce depression. ECT is commonly used by people who do not respond to drugs, are unable to take antidepressants due to health problems, or are at high risk of suicide.
- Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS): For those who haven’t reacted to antidepressants, TMS may be a choice. TMS uses a therapy coil positioned against your scalp to deliver brief magnetic pulses to nerve cells in your brain that are involved in mood control and depression.
The risks of stopping medicine unexpectedly
Stopping medication for depression without first consulting the doctor is a bad idea. Antidepressants aren’t considered addictive, but they can cause physical dependence (which isn’t the same as addiction). Withdrawal-like symptoms can occur if you stop therapy immediately or miss multiple doses, and stopping unexpectedly can worsen depression. Act with your doctor to reduce your dosage steadily and safely.
Pregnancy and Antidepressants
Some medication for depression can increase the health risk to your unborn child or nursing child if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you become pregnant or intend to become pregnant, consult your doctor.
Antidepressants and Suicide
While most antidepressants are usually safe, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all antidepressants to bear a black box warning, the most severe medication warning. When adolescents, teens, and young adults under the age of 25 start taking antidepressants, they can experience an increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior, particularly in the first few weeks or when the dosage is modified.
Anyone taking an medication for depression should be closely monitored for signs of worsening depression or unusual behavior, particularly when beginning a new drug or changing the dose. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts while taking an antidepressant, seek medical attention right away. Keep in mind that antidepressants, by improving mood, are more likely to minimize suicidal risk over time.
Depression Treatment with Dual Diagnosis
For those who struggle with depression, living with a drug or alcohol abuse problem is often a part of the equation. Contact us at the phone number 615-490-9376 today to find the right rehab program to address depression and co-occurring addiction or drug abuse issues. as well as favorable medication for depression applicable to you.
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.