Antidepressants used under the assistance of a mental health expert may relieve your depression symptoms.
However, antidepressants also come with considerable dangers and side effects. What’s more, studies have raised queries concerning their effectiveness.
Least of all, it is clear that medication alone is not enough since you also need to make some changes in your lifestyle.
Knowing the facts about antidepressants and considering the benefits against the risks can assist you make a personal and informed decision about what is right for you.
1. What Antidepressants Are
These are drugs used for the treatment of clinical depression, although lots of them are ideal for use in other medical conditions as well. There are 5 main types:
- Tricyclic Antidepressants -TCAs
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors – MAOIs
- Noradenaline Re-uptake Inhibitors – NRIs
- Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors – SSRIs
- Multiple Re-uptake Inhibitors
There are also various antidepressants which do not fit into any of these categories. Aside from depression, antidepressants may also be used for panic attacks, severe anxiety disorders, chronic pain, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress.
2. How We Think They Work
It is not certainly known how antidepressants function, although most of them are considered to work by inhibiting re-absorption of some chemicals in the brain.
The brain consists of approximately 10 billion brain cells/ neurons. Each connects to roughly 10,000 others, but they do not actually get in contact with one another. They are separated by tiny gaps known as synapses.
The three major neurotransmitters that are involved in depression are thought to be dopamine, serotonin and noradrenalin.
NRI’s work on noradrenalin, SSRI’s work on serotonin, Multiple Re-uptake Inhibitors do work on two or more of these three and Tricyclics always work on all three.
3. Not Everybody Needs Medication
Antidepressants shouldn’t be used for treating very mild depression because, if you are not severely depressed, the antidepressants do not work any better than the placebos.
And while placebo effect can be functional, antidepressants have side-effects and risks; therefore for those with moderate-mild depression, the risks mostly outweigh potential benefits
Most people with moderate or mild depression can be treated with good diet, therapy, a support group, and regular exercise.
On the other hand, if you have severe depression, it is pretty useless for someone to tell you that you should get some exercise. That is the sort of depression which needs medication at once.
4. They do not Work immediately
Some people do respond almost right away to antidepressants, whereas others may not detect any difference for up to a month. If there is still no difference after about 6 – 8 weeks, that’s when you should consider trying different drugs.
Common side-effects once you start using antidepressants are: headaches, dry mouth, weight gain, nausea, insomnia, sleepiness and constipation.
These effects are generally temporary and they usually pass in a few weeks. Always read patients information leaflet to know the full list of such side-effects before taking an antidepressant.
6. Suicide Risk
All antidepressants do carry increased possibility of suicide. Therefore it is very important for anyone starting antidepressants to be carefully monitored, and report any suicidal thoughts without any delay. The possibility of suicide that’s associated with antidepressants is much higher in teenagers and children.
7. Alcohol and depressants don’t mix
It is best to avoid alcohol if you are taking antidepressants. A few drinks or a glass of wine with your meal is just okay.
Large quantities of alcohol tend to make one more depressed, which may further increase your possibility of suicide during treatment.
8. Physical Dependency
When you have been taking antidepressants for some time, your brain will get used to the chemical changes that the medicines cause.
While antidepressants are not addictive, some people do experience withdrawal symptoms after they stop taking medication particularly if it is an SSRI, even more so if they stop it abruptly.
Don’t therefore come off your prescription on your own. You should gradually reduce the dose over time to prevent withdrawal effects.
9. At times They Stop Working
SSRI’s and other re-uptake inhibitors can really work well at first and then abruptly stop working. This is known as ‘poop-out’ effect. It just means that you should switch to some other medication in very same category, so do not panic if your medication suddenly just stops working.
Luckily, if you stop taking antidepressants then start taking them again, they will always work as well as they did when you took them the first time.