Depression Medications List
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Depression Medications List

Introduction

Depression is a mental health issue. It’s a condition that starts most often in early adulthood. It’s also more common in women. However, anyone at any age may suffer from depression.

Depression affects the brain, so drugs that work in the brain may offer hope. Common antidepressants may help ease your symptoms, but there are many other options as well. Each drug used to treat depression works by balancing certain chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. These drugs work in slightly different ways to ease your depression symptoms. Check out the medications below.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are common drugs for depression. In fact, they are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants. An imbalance of serotonin may play a role in depression. These drugs fight depression symptoms by decreasing serotonin reuptake in the brain. This effect leaves more serotonin available to work in your brain.

SSRIs include:

Common side effects of SSRIs include:

  • nausea
  • trouble sleeping
  • nervousness
  • tremors
  • sexual problems
SSRIs
Not only do SSRIs help most people with depression, but they also cause fewer side effects than other drugs used to treat depression. Sexual problem side effects are among the most common in these antidepressants.

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs help improve serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain. This may reduce depression symptoms. These drugs include:

In addition to treating depression, duloxetine (Cymbalta) may also relieve pain. This is important because chronic pain can lead to depression or make it worse. And in some cases, people with depression become more aware of aches and pains. A drug that treats both depression and pain, such as duloxetine, can be helpful to these people.

Common side effects of SNRIs include:

  • nausea
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • dry mouth

Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

TCAs are often prescribed when SSRIs or other antidepressants don’t work. It isn’t fully understood how these drugs work to treat depression.

TCAs include:

Common side effects of TCAs can include:

  • constipation
  • dry mouth
  • fatigue

The more serious side effects of these drugs include:

  • low blood pressure
  • irregular heart rate
  • seizures

Other medications for depression

Tetracyclic antidepressant

Maprotiline is used to treat depression and anxiety. It also works by balancing neurotransmitters to ease symptoms of depression.

Common side effects of this drug include:

  • drowsiness
  • weakness
  • lightheadedness
  • headache
  • blurry vision
  • dry mouth

Dopamine reuptake blocker

Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Forfivo, Aplenzin) is a mild dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake blocker. It’s used for depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s also used in smoking cessation.

Common side effects include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • dizziness
  • blurry vision

5-HT1A receptor antagonist

The drug in this class used to treat depression is called vilazodone (Viibryd). It works by balancing serotonin levels and other neurotransmitters.

This drug is rarely used as a first-line treatment for depression. That means it’s usually only prescribed when other medications didn’t work for you or caused bothersome side effects.

Side effects can include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • trouble sleeping

5-HT2 receptor antagonists

Two 5-HT2 receptor antagonists, nefazodone and trazodone, are used to treat depression. These are older drugs. They alter chemicals in your brain to help depression.

Common side effects include:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth

5-HT3 receptor antagonists

One 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, vortioxetine (Brintellix), treats depression by affecting the activity of brain chemicals.

Common side effects include:

  • sexual problems
  • nausea

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs are older drugs that treat depression. They work by stopping the breakdown of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. They’re more difficult for people to take than most other antidepressants. This is because they interact with prescription drugs, nonprescription drugs, and some foods. They also can’t be combined with stimulants or other antidepressants.

MAOIs
MAOIs are rarely a doctor’s first choice of drug to prescribe. They’re often only used as a last resort, after many other drugs have failed to treat your depression.

MAOIs include:

  • isocarboxazid (Marplan)
  • phenelzine (Nardil)
  • selegiline (Emsam), which comes as a transdermal patch
  • tranylcypromine (Parnate)

MAOIs also have many side effects. These can include:

  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • drowsiness
  • trouble sleeping
  • restlessness

Noradrenergic antagonist

Mirtazapine (Remeron) is used primarily for depression. It alters certain chemicals in your brain to ease depression symptoms.

Common side effects include:

  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • weight gain

Atypical medications

Other depression drugs don’t fall into the typical classes. These are called atypical antidepressants. Depending on your condition, your doctor may prescribe one of these alternatives instead. For example, olanzapine/fluoxetine (Symbyax) is an atypical antidepressant. It’s used to treat bipolar disorder and major depression that doesn’t respond to other drugs. Ask your doctor if an alternative drug treatment is a good choice for you. They can tell you more.

Keep reading: Best atypical antipsychotics for treating depression »

Natural treatments

You may be interested in natural options to treat your depression. Some people use these treatments instead of drugs, and some use them as an add-on treatment to their antidepressant medication.

Safety first
Although these aren’t prescription drugs, you should consult your doctor before using natural treatments for a medical condition like depression. Natural treatments also carry risks.

St. John's wort is an herb that some people have tried for depression. According to the National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health, the herb may have mild positive effects or it may not work any better than placebo. This herb also causes many drug interactions that can be serious.

St. John’s wort interacts with:

  • anti-seizure drugs
  • birth control pills
  • warfarin
  • prescription antidepressants

Plus, certain drugs for depression may not work as well if you take them with St. John’s wort.

The supplement S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) is another natural option that some people have tried to ease their depression symptoms. SAMe may help joint treat pain, but there’s not much support to show that it helps with depression. This treatment can also interact with prescription drugs.

Get more info: Is St. John’s wort safe? »

Talk with your doctor

Drugs are only part of your depression treatment. Talk with your doctor about steps you can take, such as lifestyle changes or changes in your diet, that can help ease your depression and help your medication to work its best.

When it comes to treating depression, what works for one person may not work for another. Finding the right drug for your depression can take time. If you start taking medication for your depression, allow time for trial and error. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can take at least six weeks for an antidepressant to work fully. Ask your doctor how long it should take for your medication to work. If your symptoms of depression have not improved by then, talk to your doctor. They may suggest another medication that may be more effective in relieving your depression.

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