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There are several types of depression medications (antidepressants) used to treat depression and conditions that have depression as a component of the disease, such as bipolar disorder. These drugs improve symptoms of depression by increasing the availability of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. It is believed that these brain chemicals can help improve emotions.

Major types of antidepressants include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are some of the first antidepressants used to treat depression. They primarily affect the levels of two chemical messengers (neurotransmitters), norepinephrine and serotonin, in the brain. Although these drugs are effective in treating depression, they have more side effects, so they usually aren't the first drugs used.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are another early form of antidepressant. These drugs are most effective in people with depression who do not respond to other treatments.  Substances in certain foods, like cheese, beverages like wine, and medications can interact with an MAOI, so these people taking this medication must adhere to strict dietary restrictions (see below). For this reason these antidepressants also aren't usually the first drugs used.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a newer form of antidepressant. These drugs work by altering the amount of a chemical in the brain called serotonin.
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another newer form of antidepressant medicine. They treat depression by increasing availability of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine.

Examples of effective medications commonly prescribed for depression or depression-related problems are listed in the chart below.

 

Drug Name Type of Medication Potential Side Effects

Anafranil

Adapin

Aventyl

Elavil

Endep

Norpramin

Pamelor

Pertofrane

Sinequan

Surmontil

Tofranil

Vivactil

Zonalon

 

These medicines are tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) which work by increasing the available amount of serotonin and/or norepinephrine in the brain. Dry mouth, blurred vision, increased fatigue and sleepiness, weight gain, muscle twitching (tremors), constipation, bladder problems such as urine retention, dizziness, daytime drowsiness, increased heart rate, sexual problems.

Emsam

Eldepryl



Nardil

Marplan

Parnate

Zelapar

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) increase the amount of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain

Must avoid certain foods and medications to avoid dangerous interactions*

Serious side effects may include: headache, heart racing, chest pain, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical care immediately.

Celexa

Lexapro

Luvox

Paxil

Pexeva

Prozac

Sarafem

Zoloft

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, work by increasing the amount of serotonin, a neurotransmitter found in the brain. Sexual problems including low sex drive or inability to have an orgasm are common but reversible, dizziness, headaches, nausea right after a dose, insomnia, feeling jittery.

Aplenzin

Budeprion

Buproban Forfivo

Wellbutrin

Bupropion may increase the amounts of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.

Weight loss, decreased appetite, restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, constipation, dry mouth, diarrhea, dizziness, seizures.

 

Cymbalta

Effexor

Fetzima

Khedezla

Pristiq 

These drugs increase the levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.

Drowsiness, blurred vision, lightheadedness, strange dreams, constipation, fever/chills, headache, increased or decreased appetite, tremor, dry mouth, nausea.

Remeron can be sedating. Cymbalta may increase sweating and blood pressure and also cause fatigue and reduced energy.

Desyrel Ludiomil

Oleptro

These drugs block various neurotransmitter chemicals to some degree.

Desyrel and Oleptro may cause drowsiness, fatigue, tremor, headache, dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting.

Ludiomil may cause headache, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and sweating.