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Drugs Used to Treat Mental Disorders

What Drugs Are Used to Treat Depression?

When treating depression, several drugs are available. Some of the most commonly used include: 

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, and Viibryd. 
  • Selective serotonin & norepinephrine inhibitors (SNRIs), such as Effexor, Cymbalta, Khedezla, Fetzima, and Pristiq.
  • Tetracyclic antidepressants that are noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NaSSAs), such as Remeron.
  • Older tricyclic antidepressants, such as Elavil, Pamelor, Sinequan, and Imipramine. 
  • Dopaminergic drugs such as Wellbutrin.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as Nardil, Parnate, and Emsam.

Your health care provider can determine which drug is right for you. Remember that medications usually take four to eight weeks to become fully effective. And if one medication does not work, there are many others to try.

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In some cases, a combination of antidepressants may be necessary. Sometimes an antidepressant combined with a second antidepressant from a different class, or a  different type of medication altogether, such as a mood stabilizer (like lithium) or atypical antipsychotic (like Seroquel or Abilify) can boost the effect of an antidepressant alone.

Side effects vary, depending on what type of medication you are taking, and may improve once your body adjusts to the medication.

If you decide to stop taking your antidepressants, it is important that you gradually reduce the dose over a period of time recommended by your doctor.Quitting antidepressants abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms or increase the chance that symptoms will return. It is important to discuss quitting (or changing) medications with your health care provider first.

What Medications Are Used to Treat Anxiety Disorders?

When treating anxiety disorders, antidepressants, particularly the SSRIs, have been shown to be effective.

Other anti-anxiety drugs include the benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Ativan and Xanax. These drugs do carry a risk of addiction or tolerance (meaning that higher and higher doses become necessary to achieve the same effect), so they are not as desirable for long-term use. Other possible side effects include drowsiness, poor concentration, and irritability.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on February 17, 2012
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