Anti-depressant drugs are commonly used in the United States for the treatment of depression. However, most depression is commonly treated with a combination of both antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy. On this page we will discuss only the relevant aspects of antidepressant drugs.
There are two very distinct "schools of thought" regarding the use of antidepressant drugs for depression. The first school of thought is very supportive of drug use to combat and treat the symptoms of sadness and to correct any imbalance of brain chemistry that contribute to depression. These medical experts also believe that therapy helps to resolve personal issues that may have caused the depression.
The second school of thought held by many medical experts is that most depression is not caused by a chemical imbalance or genetic factors. They believe that low serotonin levels are a result, not a cause, of depression. Their basic argument is that antidepressant drugs are treating the symptoms instead of the causes. They also raise many questions about the safety, effectiveness and usefulness of drugs in treating depression. And they question the basic theories about depression that support the use of antidepressant drugs. They are also very critical of the use of antidepressant drugs with children. And lastly, they note the many side-effects that are part of antidepressant drug use.
In the recent past, psychiatrists would prescribe one antidepressant medication, wait eight weeks and, if it didn't work, switch to another one. This is a legitimate method of treatment but it is also if frustratingly slow. Today they are increasing using secondary drugs to boost the primary antidepressant drug. A common booster drug, Cytomel, is a thyroid stimulator. Women with low to normal thyroid levels are being prescribed Cytomel in addition to an antidepressant. The supporters of this treatment method claim that the booster drug improves the effectiveness of the primary antidepressant drug about 50 percent of the time. Other popular booster drugs are lithium and Ritalin.
The four major classes of antidepressant drugs are: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), Tricyclic (TCA), Monoamine Oxidas Inhibitors (MAOI), and Heterocyclics.
Selective Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) include:
Many experts claim that SSRI drugs are very effective in treating chronic depression because they increase serotonin levels, which contributes to a feeling of well-being. However, these drugs have various side effects and sometimes they are severe. These side effects include headache, anxiety, diarrhea, sweating, difficulty concentrating, nausea, reduced sex drive, and difficulty sleeping. As a general rule, these side effects are milder than those of other types of antidepressants.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI) include:
MAOI drugs block, or inhibit, the action of the enzyme monoamine oxidase in the central nervous system. However, they can cause severe and life-threatening side effects under certain conditions - usually a sudden and severe rise in blood pressure. There is a great danger to the patient if these MAOI drugs are combined with certain foods that are high in tyramine, such as soy sauce, beer on tap, red wines, and aged cheeses and meats. Severe side effects can also occur if MAOI drugs are combined with some over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, as well as both TCA and SSRI antidepressant drugs. Patients taking MAOI drugs must be acutely aware of any food or drug interactions.
In addition, MAOI antidepressant drugs are unsafe for pregnant women. This type of antidepressant has been around since the 1950s and this danger is well documented.
Tricyclic (TCA) type antidepressants include:
TCA drugs are also used to treat chronic depression. However, these antidepressant drugs are used less often because they have the possibility of more severe side effects, including persistent dry mouth, sedation, dizziness and irregular heart rhythms.
Heterocyclic drugs include bupropion and trazodone. Bupropion is not given to patients with a seizure disorder. Tazodone is often prescribed to depression patients that suffer from insomnia because it can cause sedation.
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