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 regulate brain circuits that affect 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 tap beer or certain wines, and some cough syrups and other medications can interact with an MAOI, so people taking an MAOI must adhere to strict dietary restrictions (see below) and also avoid certain medications that can raise blood pressure. For these reasons, 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 or functioning 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.
- Serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs) are drugs that block neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin or dopamine, thereby increasing serotonin levels..
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|
clomipramine ( Anafranil)
desipramine ( Norpramin,
imipramine ( Tofranil)
nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor)
protriptyline ( Vivactil)
trimipramine ( Surmontil)
|These medicines are examples of 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.|
isocarboxazid ( Marplan)
phenelzine ( Nardil)
tranylcypromine ( Parnate)
|Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) increase the amount of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain||
Must avoid certain foods and medications to avoid dangerous interactions.*
citalopram ( Celexa)
escitalopram ( Lexapro)
fluvoxamine ( Luvox)
sertraline ( Zoloft)
|Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, work by increasing the functioning 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.|
|bupropion ( Aplenzin, Budeprion, Buproban Forfivo, Wellbutrin)||These are branded forms of bupropion, which may alter the functioning of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain.||
desvenlafaxine (Khedezla, Pristiq)
duloxetine ( Cymbalta)
venlafaxine ( Effexor)
|These drugs may alter the functioning of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain.|
|trazodone ( Desyrel, Oleptro)||These drugs block neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain and increase serotonin levels.||
|maprotiline (Ludiomil)||This medicine alters the function of norepinephine and histamine.||Ludiomil may cause headache, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and sweating.|
|vortioxetine (Trintellix)||This drug works to block the serotonin reuptake pump in order to enhance the activity of nerve cells that communicate using serotonin.||Trintellix may cause nausea, constipation, vomiting, dizziness, decreased interest in sex, and changes in sexual ability.|