Overview Depression Medications

Most depressed people need antidepressant medications to treat their depression, however less than 10% are adequately medicated. Antidepressants can improve or completely relieve depressive symptoms. Several medications are available depending on age and medication tolerance.

Antidepressant Medication Choices.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Tricyclic (TCAs) and heterocyclic antidepressants.
  • Other antidepressants.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

There are several considerations in choosing the right antidepressant medication.

  • Understand the side effects of the medication.
  • Tell your doctor about all medications you are taking so the doctor can determine whether there are drug interactions.
  • If you are an older person, you may need less medication, and it may take longer to be effective.
  • Your doctor will need to monitor your progress every two weeks until it can be determined whether a particular medication is working for you.
  • It may take several trials of different medications before you and your doctor find the right medication to treat your depression.
  • Once you have begun to feel better, you will need to continue taking your medication for a minimum of 16 to 20 weeks to help reduce the likelihood of another depressive episode.
  • Some people need to remain on maintenance medication therapy for the remainder of their lives.

When deciding which medication to prescribe, your doctor will consider:

  • Your response to medications in previous depressive episodes.
  • Whether you have other illnesses that need to be treated, so you are not given a depression medication that will interact poorly with other medicines you may be taking.
  • Which symptoms you are experiencing. Some antidepressants work better than others, depending on the person's symptoms.
  • Your age and general state of physical health. Older adults and adults who are taking prescription medications usually need to take lower doses of medications for depression.
  • How much the side effects of the medication bother you.

Facts about using medications to treat depression.

  • Up to 35% of people with depression do not continue taking their depression medications. It is important to continue taking medications as prescribed, even after symptoms go away, to prevent recurrence of depression.
  • Antidepressant medications often need to be taken for as long as 4 to 6 weeks before they start to relieve symptoms.. During this time, you may experience side effects of the medication. Do not stop taking the medication on your own. If your side effects are particularly bothersome, talk with your doctor to see if you should continue the medication or try another. Often side effects go away in time.
  • Most antidepressant medications are started at low doses and increased gradually, especially in older adults. Medications should also be stopped gradually by decreasing the dose. If antidepressant medications are stopped abruptly, you may suffer negative effects or depressive symptoms may return.
  • Sometimes people on antidepressants need to be very careful when changing from a brand name medication to a generic medication (or vice versa), or when changing from one manufacturer of a medication to another. Making these changes may cause changes in the amount of medication their bodies absorb.
  • Older adults who are depressed and taking medications for other health conditions (not related to depression) need careful monitoring of their medications. Older adults are more likely to develop harmful side effects from taking many different medications (because it can be more difficult for the older person's body to break down all the different medications).