Medications for OCD

The medications used for OCD are the same ones that are used for severe depression and other anxiety disorders in children and adolescents. These drugs all affect serotonin, a chemical in the brain which communicates between the different parts of the brain.

We don't know exactly how this works yet. We do know one thing for certain. If a drug has no effect on the serotonin system, it won't be effective alone in OCD.

Medications for OCD:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Paxil (Paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (Sertraline)
  • Luvox (fluvoxamine)
  • Anafranil (Clomipramine)

What are these drugs supposed to do and how fast do they work?

In adults, when these drugs work, which is 60-80% of the time, they do not work overnight. Usually a person will see a change in the first month, but sometimes a person can have no change for 6-8 weeks and then start to improve. However, some recent work suggests that they may work faster in children.

A very large study of Fluvoxamine (Luvox) in children with OCD showed after only one week there were signs of improvement and most of the improvement was seen within the first three weeks. In some people, the obsessions and compulsions just start to drop away. In other cases, the obsessive thoughts still go through their mind, but only to a mild degree. In other cases, the medicines just make it easier to do the behavior treatment. Sometimes they help certain parts of OCD and not others.

How long does a person take them?

Typically your doctor will suggest a minimum of six months. It is not uncommon, if a person has been very ill and it has been a real battle to get them better to take medications for 12-18 months.