Antidepressants are psychiatric drugs commonly used to treat moderate to severe depression in addition to anxiety and panic disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Antidepressants are used to treat chemical imbalances in the neurotransmitters necessary for regulating mood and behavior. They are generally taken orally in pill or capsule form according to instructions prescribed by a physician.
It is important to consult a physician before starting any antidepressants to be sure that they are needed, as symptoms of depression can be incorrectly diagnosed. It is not unusual for the first antidepressant the doctor prescribes to cause side effects; each antidepressant affects each individual differently, so it may take a few attempts before finding the right medication(s) to help with the depression symptoms.
Types of Antidepressants
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat depression. They may produce mild side effects such as fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, and decreased sexual impulse, among others. Examples of these are Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac
- Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) alter the balance of chemicals in the brain to increase mood. Side effects may include dry mouth, dizziness, sweating, and sometimes upset stomach, agitation, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, and fever. Examples of these are Effexor, Pristiq, and Cymbalta
- Atypical Antidepressants change the levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain to help elevate mood. Side effects include headaches, fever, weight loss, decreased appetite, and sexual problems among others. Examples are Wellbutrin, Oleptro, and Remeron
- Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) block the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine to assist brain cells in sending and receiving messages more easily. They may cause side effects such as sedation, weight gain, and changes in blood pressure or blood sugar, among others. Examples of these are Tofranil, Surmontil, and Pamelor
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) are the most effective of the above-listed groups of antidepressants, however because they have the most health risks involved, they are not prescribed as often. Side effects may include muscle twitching, drowsiness, and high blood pressure. Additionally certain foods do not mix well with MAOIs so it is important to ask a doctor to ensure that MAOIs would be most helpful for your particular case of depression. Examples of these are Parnate, Nardil, and Marplan.
Addiction and Overdose
While antidepressants are not commonly addictive drugs Like Herion, Khat, Marijuana, LSD or PCP etc.they may be utilized for more than their intended use. Drug dependency to antidepressants entails “self-medication” or taking more than the intended dosage because the antidepressants are not producing the desired effects. It is important to look out for any possible signs of addiction such as:
- Violent and aggressive thoughts or actions
- Suicidal thoughts
- Severe mood swings
Although people usually do not often experience cravings for antidepressants, they may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop drug use immediately. There may be a sudden disappearance of withdrawal symptoms once going back on the medication.
Overdosing on anti-depressants can increase the above side effects, which may potentially be fatal and life-threatening. If overdose occurs, call 911 immediately.
If any of the above signs are present, you or a loved one may have an addiction to antidepressants, which may require professional assistance by either a doctor or a therapist. Drug rehabilitation centers are extremely helpful in treating symptoms of addiction and withdrawal symptoms.