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Prescription Medication are Not Recreational Drugs

Simran Raghani

For years, people have looked at antidepressants the same way they look at addictive drugs, believing that they are not good for consumption, but that’s not the case. Antidepressants have been recommended by professionals for a very long time and are known to help people who consume them.

What are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medications that treat major depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and other psychological conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Antidepressants can’t cure depression directly, but instead, they help in reducing the symptoms and coping by changing the chemical imbalances of the neurotransmitters in our brain, responsible for our mood and behaviour. For the last fifteen-twenty years, antidepressants have been very commonly prescribed by Psychiatrists and medical professionals and depending on the patient’s condition, they are often prescribed alongside therapies.

Different types of Antidepressants:

1.Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most common and most prescribed antidepressants. They are known to ease the symptoms and cause lesser side effects as compared to other antidepressants. Serotonin is a chemical in the brain which carries signals between brain nerves cells. It is responsible for the emotional well being of a person by controlling their mood, it is more commonly known as the ‘Happy Chemical’ for the same reason. SSRIs treat psychological conditions by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. These antidepressants stop the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin to the neurons, which directly helps in improving the transmission of serotonin to the neurons. Depending from person to person, SSRIs can have side effects which usually decrease after the first few weeks, if not, the clients are free to ask their psychiatrist for a different type of SSRI. The side effects include nausea, headache, changes in appetite etc. Some common SSRIs are citalopram, sertraline and fluoxetine.

2. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIS) are mainly used to reduce the symptoms of depression but they are sometimes used to treat anxiety and chronic pain. Just like SSRIs, SNRIs block the reuptake of neurotransmitters, but they target norepinephrine along with serotonin. SNRIs along with SSRIs are second-generation antidepressants. Just like other antidepressants, these too have a few side effects which are dizziness, excessive sweating, dry mouth, nausea and headache. Some common SNRIs are duloxetine, venlafaxine and desvenlafaxine.

3. Tricyclic Antidepressants, also known as cyclic antidepressants or TCAs were first developed back in 1950 and are still considered to be effective while treating depressions. However, these antidepressants might not be a psychiatrist's first choice due to their severe side effects which some clients cannot tolerate. Like other antidepressants, TCAs also helps in elevating the mood and raises the level of serotonin and norepinephrine. Side effects of cyclic antidepressants include blurred vision, constipation, problems with blood pressure, weight loss, increase in appetite etc. A few Tricyclic antidepressants are doxepin, imipramine, amoxapine.

4. Atypical Antidepressants: As the name might suggest, atypical antidepressants are not like the "typical" antidepressants and cannot be classified with the others. They are very different from other antidepressants and work in a very unique manner. Atypical antidepressants are often prescribed to a client if they do not respond to other medications. It eases depression by affecting the neurotransmitters in the brain and affects the levels of one or more neurotransmitters in the brain, namely serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. Side effects are dry mouth, dizziness, insomnia. Some common Atypical antidepressants are mirtazapine, nefazodone, trazodone and vilazodone.

5. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) were the first type of antidepressants that were developed. They are still effective but with the increased use of other drugs, they are not prescribed as often as they were before. An enzyme known as monoamine oxidase is naturally found in our body which is a major cause for depression. It removes neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine from our body. MAOIs prevents that from happening by keeping the neurotransmitters within our brain itself. Side effects of MAOIs are fatigue, nervousness, muscle ache, pain and tingling of skin etc. Some common types of these MAOIs are isocarboxazid, phenelzine, selegiline and tranylcypromine.

Common Misconceptions about Antidepressants

While Antidepressants are considered to be extremely effective and improves the condition of a patient, there are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding them.

1. Antidepressants have major side effects: Just like the majority of things, antidepressants have their pros and cons as well. Antidepressants do have certain side effects but they vary from person to person and depends upon the dosage. If a person is having some side effects from the antidepressant they are prescribed, they can always reach out to their psychiatrist and find something that will be better for them.

2. Antidepressants will affect my sleep: Insomnia is a symptom of depression, so getting help for depression can help with sleep. The right type of antidepressant can help the client improve their sleep patterns. So once they start consuming them, they might be able to sleep better.

3. Antidepressants are costly: Many people refuse to take antidepressants, worrying about the expenses, which is a problem in itself. Some antidepressants are expensive but there are so many other options which are cheaper and can be very effective. The client and the professional can come up with a plan and try out a cheaper yet effective type of antidepressant.

4. Antidepressants are happy pills: Some people consider them to be happy pills but that is not the case. They are meant to correct chemical imbalances in the brain which are changing your mood. If a person not having these imbalances consumes them, it won’t make them happier, but instead, make them feel sick.

5. Antidepressants do not work: Studies show that 40- 60% of people notice changes within 6-7 weeks of taking them. So this is a misconception that antidepressants don’t work.

Important things to keep in mind while taking Antidepressants:

1. Changes vary from person to person: An antidepressant will benefit one person but might not help the other. Give yourself time to get adjusted to these and if they still don’t help, do not be disheartened, there are many other options that can work out for you. Being patient here is the key.

2. Do not stop suddenly: If a patient feels that they are getting better, it is crucial for them to not stop consuming abruptly which can lead to a few withdrawal symptoms.

3. Therapy along with antidepressants can work: Antidepressants alone can help in treating depression but along with therapy, treating it can be very helpful.

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