There are several categories of antidepressant medications:

  • Serotonin specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). This well-known group of medications includes Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and Lexapro. These medications are generally well-tolerated, with mild side effects that tend to diminish after several days or weeks. They are effective, and pose no risk for recreational use or addiction. They also pose little risk of overdose.
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). This category includes Cymbalta, Effexor, Pristiq and others. While this class of antidepressant medication works on different neurotransmitters, these drugs are similar to the SSRIs in that they are typically effective, well-tolerated and safe.
  • Tricyclics. This category of antidepressant medication includes Tofranil, Pamelor and others. These medications are prescribed less often due the availability of safer antidepressant medications that generally have fewer side effects.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These medications include Nardil, Parnate and Marplan, and are also prescribed less often than the SSRIs or the SNRIs. MAOIs can interact with certain foods (fermented foods, certain cheeses and wine), and other medications with dangerous results. They also tend to have unpleasant side effects that do not diminish over time, and thus are not commonly prescribed. However, MAOIs and tricyclics may still be suggested in some cases, especially if trials of SSRIs have not relieved your symptoms.

Discuss your symptoms with your doctor, and ask questions about what you can expect from your antidepressant medication.

  • When will I start to feel better? Some medications take several weeks to build up to a therapeutic level in your bloodstream. Others work more quickly.
  • What if I want to stop taking this? Can I just stop “cold turkey” or do I need to taper off?
  • What are the most common side effects and how can I manage them? Sometimes there may be an additional medication or supplement that can help mitigate the worst of the side effects.

Team up with your doctor to make the best choice for you. Be sure to take your antidepressant medication as prescribed, and discuss any concerns if they come up.


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