Maintenance Medications for Depression
Some of the first medicines used to treat depression were tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Both types affect the availability of certain neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) that are thought to play a role in depression. While these medicines can be very effective in some forms of depression, doctors usually no longer use them as first-line treatments because of concerns about side effects. They can have more severe safety risks due to certain drug or food interactions and also can be very dangerous in overdose. However, they are still the right choice for some people with depression -- especially if newer antidepressants don't help.
Other drugs that are not actually antidepressants can also help. For instance, some people recovering from depression will benefit from drugs for anxiety or insomnia. In addition, certain atypical antipsychotics -- such as Seroquel XR (quetiapine) or Abilify (aripiprazole) -- have been shown to enhance the effect of antidepressant medicines for depression when an antidepressant alone isn't fully effective.
Finding the Right Depression Medicine for You
Unfortunately, finding the right medicine and the right dose isn't always simple. People have very different reactions to these drugs. There's no way for your doctor to predict how well a medicine will work for you. You may even find that a medicine that used to help just doesn't anymore.
You may have to put up with some trial and error. While antidepressants usually begin to show significant effects within a few weeks, it can take several months before you feel the full effects of a new drug, so don't give up. Over time, your doctor may want to increase or decrease the dose, depending on how you're doing.
If you've given a depression drug a chance and it still isn't helping, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may recommend that you try another antidepressant. With time, you should be able to find a medicine or a combination of medicines that helps.
Don't ever stop taking a medicine without your doctor's approval, even if you're feeling better. Stopping a medicine suddenly can trigger a relapse or, with some antidepressants, flu-like symptoms and nausea or dizziness caused by sudden discontinuation of the drug.
Your doctor will want you to check in on a regular basis, especially soon after starting a new medicine, to see how you're doing and monitor the effects of medication. Take advantage of these appointments to talk about any issues you have with your medication.