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Antidepressants: Myths and Facts About SSRIs

Millions of Americans suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can improve a wide variety of these conditions and, as a result, are commonly prescribed. SSRIs work by blocking a receptor in brain cells that reabsorb the chemical serotonin, thereby more of this chemical available to "amplify" its ability to send messages between nerve cells. Brain circuits that "run" on serotonin messaging are known to influence mood, but the exact way SSRIs improve depression isn't clear.

Commonly prescribed SSRIs include:

Alternative Therapies for Depression

There is no evidence that any alternative treatment is effective for treating moderate to severe depression. For some people, however, they may be used as an addition to other treatments -- providing relaxation, relief from depressive symptoms, and helping you cope with some of the causes of depression such as grief, anxiety, changing roles, and even physical pain. If you have depression and are considering using an alternative form of therapy, it is important to seek the advice of your healthcare provider.

What is Alternative Therapy?
A health treatment that is not classified as standard western medical practice is referred to as "alternative" or "complementary." Alternative therapy encompasses a variety of disciplines that include everything from diet and exercise to mental conditioning and lifestyle changes. Examples of alternative therapies include acupuncture, guided imagery, chiropractic treatments, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, relaxation, herbal remedies, massage, and many others.

SSRIs have the power to markedly improve mood, outlook, and behavior in people with depression. Although often positive, these same benefits can also be a cause of concern to many people. They may think that taking an SSRI will turn you into someone other than your own self? Most depression experts would say that when antidepressants are effective, they take away the negative effects of depression that mask your real self; antidepressants can reveal someone's true personality (rather than change it) by lifting the veil of depression.

All medicines can have side effects, and depression treatments are no exception. Although generally well-tolerated, antidepressant drugs affect each person differently. Understanding the reality behind SSRI myths can help you know what to expect, if you're prescribed these medicines.

SSRI Myth or Fact: SSRIs Are Dangerous to Combine With Other Medicines.

Although no drug is 100% safe for everyone, SSRIs are among the safest. Rarely do SSRIs interact or cause problems with other medicines. However, SSRIs should not be used with the following medications due to the risk of developing dangerously high blood pressure or a medically serious condition called serotonin syndrome:

  • Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors: These medicines can be extremely effective treatments for depression, but should not be combined with other antidepressants. They include Parnate, Marplan, Nardil and Emsem.
  • Tramadol: A pain medication that also blocks the reuptake of both serotonin and another brain chemical called norepinephrine.
  • Zyvox: This is an antibiotic that acts similarly to an MAO inhibitor.

Bottom Line: SSRIs are safe to take with almost all medicines. But before taking an SSRI, ask your doctor or pharmacist about any possible complications associated with taking the medicine with other treatments.

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