How effective are antidepressants? That's a question that many people with depression have asked -- and research suggests that the answers aren't simple.
It's a question that's relevant to millions. About one in 10 Americans takes an antidepressant, now the most commonly prescribed type of drug in the U.S., according to research published in 2009 in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Much of the surge has happened in the past two decades. From 1996 to 2005, the rate of antidepressant use rose...
However, questions remain on the safety of antidepressant medications in children and adolescents. Manufacturers of all antidepressant drugs must include a warning on the box that alerts consumers to an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents being treated with these drugs. This risk has not been shown for adults over age 24.
How Does Your Doctor Select Which Antidepressant to Administer?
Your mental health professional chooses which antidepressant medicine to give you based on your symptoms, the presence of other medical conditions, what other medicines you are taking, cost of the prescribed treatments, and potential side effects. If you have had depression before, your doctor will usually prescribe the same medicine you responded to in the past. If you have a family history of depression, medicines that have been effective in treating your family member(s) might be one factor to consider in choosing an appropriate medication for you.
Usually you will start taking the medicine at a low dose. The dose will be gradually increased until you start to see an improvement (unless significant side effects emerge).
How Long Will I Have to Take Antidepressants?
In order to be effective and prevent depression from recurring, antidepressant medicines are generally prescribed for six month to one year for people who are being treated for first-time depression. Usually, these drugs must be taken regularly for at least one to two months before their full benefit takes effect. You are usually monitored closely during this time to detect the development of side effects and to determine the effectiveness of treatment.
When you and your doctor determine that you are better and have remained well without a relapse for at least several months, your doctor may gradually taper you off your medicines. Once you and your doctor have determined it is safe for you to stop taking your medicine altogether, you should continue to be monitored during periodic follow-up appointments (about every three months) to detect any signs of depression recurrence.