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Depression: Treating Depression With Medication

Depression Medications

Antidepressants are medications used in treating depression.

There are a variety of medications that can be used to treat depression. These antidepressants all work to take away or reduce the symptoms of depression.

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However, questions remain on the safety of antidepressant medications in children and adolescents. In October 2004, the FDA directed the manufacturers of all antidepressant drugs to revise the labeling of their products to include a boxed warning alerting 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) may be considered.

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 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.

You should never discontinue any medication without talking to your doctor about it first. Most antidepressants are gradually tapered off when a decision is made to stop them. If you abruptly stop taking some antidepressants, you could develop physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headache, flu-like symptoms, or stomach upset (called a "discontinuation syndrome").  While symptoms from abrupt discontinuation generally pose no medical hazard, they can be uncomfortable and resolve once a medicine has been restarted.

Long-term treatment with depression medicine may be recommended to prevent further episodes of depression in people who have already suffered from two or more episodes of major depression.

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