For Adults: Take Care with Antidepressants
Antidepressants are an important way to treat depression. Most adults with depression
get better when treated with antidepressants. Treatment may be just with these medicines.
Or it may be a mix of these medicines and psychotherapy or counseling.
Depression is a serious, complex brain disorder. It's not a lifestyle choice or a
sign of weakness. Depression changes how well nerve cells in certain parts of the
brain work. Antidepressants help some of those brain cells work better. They also
change how certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters work. Antidepressants
are strong medicines. They affect people mentally, emotionally, and physically. These
medicines must be taken with care to make sure they work as they should. Taking them
as directed also makes it less likely that you will have any serious side effects.
Many types of antidepressants are available. Sometimes you and your healthcare provider
may need to try a few to find the one that's best for you. Also, these medicines take
time to work. It may take several weeks to a couple of months before your symptoms
start to get better. Your provider will help you find the one medicine or a combination
of medicines that work.
It's important to take antidepressants exactly as prescribed. Talk with your healthcare
provider and pharmacist about your symptoms. Tell them about how you are using these
medicines and if you have any questions.
These are some of the antidepressants that are available to treat depression:
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
Possible side effects
Most antidepressants cause side effects. Many of the side effects get better after
you take the medicine for a period of time. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist
what side effects to expect. Ask what side effects you should report. Don't stop taking
medicines or take less of them because of side effects. Always check with your provider
first. Different medicines have different side effects. Among common side effects
Tips include the following:
Stick with your medicine. It often takes 8 weeks before you start feeling better. Keep in mind that you may
need to try another medicine or combination of medicines. Keep in touch with your
provider so your symptoms and medicines can be successfully managed.
Stay away from alcohol. Don't drink alcohol while take antidepressant medicines.
Ask about medicine interactions. Antidepressants can have an effect on many other medicines. And many medicines can
affect antidepressants. When you're taking an antidepressant, tell your healthcare
provider and pharmacist about all the other medicines you take. This includes over-the-counter
medicines and herbal health products.
St. John's wort may be an option. St. John's wort is an herbal product that some people use for mild depression. It’s
not approved by the FDA to treat depression. It can have serious side effects and
can interact with other antidepressants and other medicines in general. Talk with
your provider before taking St. John's wort.
Follow instructions exactly. It’s very important to take an antidepressant exactly as prescribed. This can even
mean at a certain time of day. You should never stop taking your medicine without
checking with your healthcare provider. If you stop, your depression could come back.
You may be at risk for suicide. Stopping your medicine could cause symptoms from the
sudden withdrawal. The safe way to stop taking an antidepressant is to taper off how
much you take. Your provider will tell you how to do this.
Follow any warnings carefully. Some antidepressants cause drowsiness. This can make some activities like driving
dangerous. Call your healthcare provider right away if your depression gets worse.
Also call your provider right away if you start to have thoughts of suicide or you
begin to think of ways to commit suicide.
Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant or start to breastfeed a child.
You may have to change medicines.