An antidepressant is a drug used that is primarily used in the treatment of clinical depression. Antidepressants are said to stimulate the mood of patients through the chemical manipulation of neurotransmitters in the brain. The various classes of antidepressants commonly include:
- Tricyclic antidepressants. An older class of antidepressant drug. These medications typically come with significant side effects and are not typically used to treat depression. Undesirable side effects from tricyclic antidepressants may include blurred vision, weight gain, sleepiness, and more. May be used in low doses to help with patients who are having difficulty sleeping or for treatment of chronic pain. The tricyclic antidepressants commonly used for pain management are amitriptyline (Amitril, Elavil) and nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor).
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors, or MAOIs). An older class of antidepressant drug and not used very often. Used selectively to treat certain patients with certain types of depression. Comes with significant dietary restrictions and has risk of significant side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, high blood pressure, and more.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Newer class of antidepressant medications and most commonly prescribed to treat depression and related disorders such as chronic pain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that affects mood. Inhibiting its reuptake in the brain keeps serotonin around longer which can be helpful for patients suffering from depression. Examples of brand names of commonly prescribed SSRIs include Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, and Wellbutrin
Aside from the treatment of depression, these drugs are also sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders, chronic pain, sleep disorders, and certain other disorders. Antidepressants are often accompanied by a range of undesirable side effects and the efficacy of each type of antidepressant varies from patient to patient. Antidepressants may have serious (potentially fatal) drug interactions with certain other types of medications.