Starting Antidepressants On The Right Foot

Chronic fatigue, stress, and other symptoms of depression can take a mental and physical toll on the body. Antidepressants are an effective treatment option for patients with major depression as part of a treatment that may include talk therapy, regular exercise, and a healthy diet. Before going on antidepressants, patients should ask pharmacists 4 crucial questions.

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Antidepressants at work

Treatment-resistant depression can benefit from the right antidepressants. Researchers believe antidepressant medications reduce depression by affecting brain circuits and neurotransmitters in the brain. Different antidepressants affect how neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin act in the brain. Knowing how each medication works can help patients feel more in control of the treatment.

1. Are there any alternatives to antidepressants?

Antidepressants are not the only effective treatments for serious cases of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common alternative and supplement to traditional antidepressant medications for mild to moderate cases of depression. CBT helps patients understand patterns of thoughts and behaviors and how to overcome negative thinking.

2. What are the side effects of antidepressants?

Ask pharmacists about the potential short-term and long-term side effects of common antidepressants. Be aware of common and rare side effects of the medication and develop a plan of action if any side effects appear. Side effects can include nausea, increased appetite, weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, dry mouth, dizziness, constipation, and sexual dysfunction.

3. Are there interactions with other medications or substances?

Patients with depression may use other medications or natural supplements to treat depression or other medical conditions. For example, St. John’s wort, commonly used to treat depression, can increase serotonin levels too much when used with antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can increase the risk of bleeding, especially when used with other medications that increase the risk of bleeding, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

4. How long will I need medication?

Antidepressants take a few months to take effect. In addition, finding a suitable antidepressant option can take some time. Generally, individuals should remain on the medication for at least 4-5 months after the depression symptoms subside. A few years of medication may be recommended for major depressive disorders or patients with subsequent depressive episodes.

Ask as many questions as needed for peace of mind

Starting a new medication can be stressful. Take time to ask pharmacists various questions about starting a new medication, including the difference between generic versions, the safety of driving when taking antidepressants, and other considerations based on the type and severity of depression.

Take the leap toward a better future

Antidepressants are one component of a complex treatment program that can reduce the symptoms of depression. Starting an antidepressant regimen may require time to find the right medication and see a noticeable difference. Take time to ask pharmacists all relevant questions before starting a new drug.

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