Get to Know Your Antidepressant Medications
By January 1, 2011 17,264 3 2
If you're suffering from depression, antidepressant medications may help relieve some of your symptoms. Below we review some of the most common types of antidepressant medications, the brand names they're sold under, and the side effects they may cause.
Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants, also called cyclic antidepressants, ease depression by affecting chemical messengers in the brain (neurotransmitters). These naturally occurring brain chemicals are used to communicate between brain cells. Most antidepressants work by changing the levels of one or more neurotransmitters.
Cyclic antidepressants block the absorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitters serotonin (ser-oh-TOE-nin) and norepinephrine (nor-ep-ih-NEF-rin), making more of these chemicals available in the brain. This seems to help brain cells send and receive messages, which in turn boosts mood. These antidepressants also affect other chemical messengers, which can lead to a number of side effects.
Brand name cyclic antidepressants include: Adapine; Sinequan; Anafranil; Asendin; Aventyl; Pamelor; Elavil; Surmontil; Tofranil; Vicacctil; Norpramin; and, Pertofrane.
Typical side effects: drowsiness; dry mouth; blurred vision; constipation; urinary retention; dizziness; delayed orgasm and low sex drive, particularly in men; increased heart rate; disorientation or confusion; low blood pressure, which can cause lightheadedness; increased appetite; weight gain; fatigue; headache; sensitivity to sunlight; nausea; and, seizures.
SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)
SSRIs ease depression by affecting chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) used to communicate between brain cells. Most antidepressants work by changing the levels of one or more of these naturally occurring brain chemicals.
SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin (ser-oh-TOE-nin) in the brain. Changing the balance of serotonin seems to help brain cells send and receive chemical messages, which in turn boosts mood. SSRIs are called selective because they seem to primarily affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.
Brand name SSRIs include: Celexa; Lexapro; Luvox; Paxil; Prozac; and, Zoloft.
Typical side effects: nausea; insomnia; anxiety; restlessness; decreased sex drive; dizziness,; weight gain; tremors; sweating; sleepiness or fatigue; dry mouth; diarrhea; constipation; and, headaches.
SNRI (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors)
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) ease depression by affecting chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) used to communicate between brain cells. Most antidepressants work by changing the levels of one or more of these naturally occurring brain chemicals.
SNRIs block the absorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitters serotonin (ser-oh-TOE-nin) and norepinephrine (nor-ep-ih-NEF-rin) in the brain. They also affect certain other neurotransmitters. Changing the balance of these chemicals seems to help brain cells send and receive messages, which in turn boosts mood. Medications in this group of antidepressants are sometimes called dual reuptake inhibitors.
Brand name SNRIs include: Cymbalta; Effexor; Serzone; Norpramin; and, Pertofrane.
Typical side effects: nausea, particularly with Cymbalta; dry mouth; dizziness; insomnia; sleepiness; constipation; increased blood pressure, with Effexor; excessive sweating; reduced sexual desire or difficulty reaching orgasm; inability to maintain an erection; increased heart rate; heart palpitation; difficulty urinating; tremor; headache; agitation or anxiety; changes in appetite; abnormal vision, such as blurred vision or double vision; muscle weakness
Antidepressants such as MAOIs ease depression by affecting chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) used to communicate between brain cells. Most antidepressants work by changing the levels of one or more of these naturally occurring brain chemicals.
The enzyme monoamine oxidase is involved in removing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine (nor-ep-ih-NEF-rin), serotonin (ser-oh-TOE-nin) and dopamine (DOE-puh-mene) from the brain. MAOIs prevent this from happening, which makes more of these brain chemicals available. This is thought to boost mood by improving brain cell communication. MAOIs also affect other neurotransmitters in the brain and digestive system, causing side effects.
Brand name MAOIs include: Marplan; Nardil; and, Parnate.
Typical side effects: daytime sleepiness; dizziness or lightheadedness; low blood pressure; diarrhea; dry mouth; altered sense of taste; nervousness; muscle aches; insomnia; weight gain; reduced sexual desire or difficulty reaching orgasm; inability to maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction); difficulty urinating; and, prickling or tingling sensation in the skin (paresthesia).
Some antidepressants specifically block both the reuptake and receptors of serotonin. These serotonin modulators include nefazodone (Serzone) and trazodone (Desyrel).
Typical side effects: nausea; vomiting; diarrhea; drowsiness; dizziness; tiredness; blurred vision; changes in weight; headache; muscle ache/pain; dry mouth; bad taste in the mouth; stuffy nose; constipation; change in sexual interest/ability ; chest/jaw/left arm pain; fainting; fast/irregular heartbeat; seizures; severe dizziness. For males: In the very unlikely event you have a painful or prolonged erection lasting 4 or more hours, stop using this drug and seek immediate medical attention or permanent problems could occur.
Norepinephrine-serotonin modulators block certain receptors that accept serotonin and norepinephrine. The only medication in this class available in the United States is mirtazapine, known by the brand name Remeron.
Typical side effects: dizziness; drowsiness; lightheadedness; increased appetite; weight gain; dry mouth; constipation; swelling of the hands/feet; shaking (tremor); and, confusion. Tell your doctor immediately if any of these rare but very serious side effects occur: unusual or severe mental/mood changes; signs of infection (e.g., fever, persistent sore throat). A very serious condition called serotonin syndrome can also occur.
Aminoketone (NDRIs) work by blocking the reabsorption of dopamine and norepinephrine without affecting serotonin levels. This allows the medications to avoid many serotonin-related side effects (e.g., sexual side effects). The only DNRI available in the United States is bupropion, known by the brand names Wellbutrin and Zyban.
Typical side effects: nausea; vomiting; dry mouth; headache; constipation; increased sweating; joint aches; sore throat; blurred vision; strange taste in the mouth; dizziness; chest pain; fainting; fast/pounding/irregular heartbeat; hearing problems; ringing in the ears; severe headache; mental/mood changes (e.g., agitation, anxiety, confusion, hallucinations); uncontrolled movements (tremor); unusual weight loss or gain; muscle pain/tenderness/weakness; and, change in the amount of urine. This drug may infrequently cause seizures. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience a seizure. If you have a seizure while taking bupropion, you should not take this drug again.
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