Depression Medications

Medications for Mood Disorders


The lists of medications below contain some of the drugs commonly used for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Some these medications can interact with one another, but most of them can be used in combination, if appropriate. For some people with severe depression or anxiety, these medications may be necessary for a period of time. However in most cases, natural treatments are equally if not more effective than prescription drugs.

Naturopathic doctors in Arizona have prescription rights, meaning that your naturopathic doctor can write you a prescription for an antidepressant if he or she feels it is necessary. This also means that if you are currently on a prescription medication for depression or anxiety, and you want to taper down to a lower dose before going off the medication, your naturopathic doctor can write you a prescription for the lower dose, while transitioning you to natural therapies.

Selected Typical Antidepressants:

  • Prozac (fluoxetine)

  • Effexor (venlafaxine)

  • Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)

  • Lexapro (escitalopram)

  • Celexa (citalopram)

  • Paxil (paroxetine)

  • Zoloft (sertraline)

These medications can decrease symptoms of depression by increasing the amount of serotonin between your nerve cells. Serotonin is released by the end of one nerve, and into the space (the synaptic cleft) between the two nerve endings. When serotonin is in the synaptic cleft, it sends a chemical signal to the next nerve that tells your brain, “I’m happy and relaxed.” In a normal healthy brain, serotonin will be released by the first nerve ending, send the signal to the next nerve, and be taken back into the first nerve.

In the presence of one of these antidepressant medications, serotonin is blocked from getting back into the first nerve cell, and is stuck in the synaptic cleft. While in the synaptic cleft, the extra serotonin sends an increased signal of “I’m happy and relaxed.” That is why these medications are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Some of the medications listed can also increase norepinephrine, which can increase energy and possibly decrease pain.

The side effects of SSRIs include an allergic reaction, restlessness, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, dry mouth, bloating, nausea, low libido, decreased appetite, and (rarely) seizures. Drug interactions can occur between some other antidepressants, such as Marplan, Azilect, Nardil, and other monoamine oxidase inhibitors. You should not take SSRIs if you are pregnant. These medications have been shown to increase thoughts of suicide in teens and young adults. Anyone with a history of bipolar disorder should not take SSRIs without other medications to stabilize mood, because they can worsen the symptoms of mania.

Other Types of Antidepressants:

  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine)

  • Marplan (isocarboxazid)

  • Desyrel (trazodone)

  • Surmontil (trimipramine)

  • Nardil (phenelzine)

  • Remeron (mirtazapine)

  • Eldepryl (selegiline)

  • Azilect (resagiline)

Most of these medications are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These drugs stop an enzyme (called monoamine oxidase) from breaking down serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This can lead to increased energy and a reduction in depression symptoms. MAOIs can cause weight gain and sexual dysfunction. These medications and can also have a dangerous interaction with certain foods that contain high levels of tyramine, such as cheese, pickles, and wine. Because of this potential food interaction, most doctors choose not to prescribe MAOIs very often anymore. Wellbutrin is different from these medications in that it appears to affect only dopamine and norepinephrine, without altering serotonin activity. Its effects on dopamine may be the underlying reason for its usefulness in treating drug withdrawal, including smoking cessation.

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