An antidepressant is a medication designed to treat or alleviate the symptoms of clinical depression. Antidepressants and other depression drugs are prescription-only medications that offer benefits but also come with some risks. They are one depression treatment option, and studies show they can help people suffering from depression.
The main types of depression drugs have similar efficacy, but the newer types are generally more benign in terms of side effects and tend to have less risk of lethality if overdose occurs.
The first depression drugs belonged to a group of antidepressants called Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors, or MAOIs, which were originally used for the treatment of tuberculosis. The next group to come along was the tricyclics. These types are still in use today, but have largely been replaced by Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, also known as SSRIs.
How Antidepressants Work
Most antidepressants are thought to work by slowing the removal of certain chemicals from the brain.
These are called neurotransmitters (like norepinephrine and serotonin). Neurotransmitters are needed for the brain to function normally and are involved in controlling mood and other responses and functions, such as sleeping, eating, pain, and thinking.
Antidepressants are beneficial for people with depression because they make these natural chemicals more available to the brain. By restoring the brain’s chemical balance, antidepressants help relieve the symptoms of depression.
Antidepressant Side Effects and Interactions
Like any medication, drugs for depression are not without some risk of side effects. Not everyone experiences these side effects, and any that are experienced will depend on the person and the type of antidepressant prescribed. Though different antidepressants work in different ways from one another, and exhibit different side effects, some adverse effects a patient may experience include loss of appetite, nausea, insomnia or tiredness, dry mouth, constipation, weight loss, weight gain, change in appetite, increased blood pressure, increase heart rate, increased cholesterol levels, headache, blurred vision, anorgasmia (inability to reach orgasm), change in libido, problems ejaculating in men, restlessness, feelings of being unable to sit sill, diarrhea, difficulty urinating, worsening of glaucoma, impaired thinking, nervousness, weakness, tremor, agitation, and sedation.
As well, antidepressants can have an effect on many other medications. A physician should be consulted if taking (or planning to take) other medicines along with a drug for depression.