5 Drugs & Medications To Treat Depression

It is normal to feel sad and miserable for a short period. However, if the unhappiness persists for a long period and causes aversion to the normal everyday activities, medications known as antidepressants may be needed to treat this mental disorder. Depression drugs or antidepressants are recommended by doctors only to patients suffering from clinical depression.


Chemical changes induced by traumatic events or genetic disorders are primarily responsible for clinical depression. Certain underlying medical conditions, alcohol and substance abuse, sleeping problems and side effects of certain medications can cause depression. Often the exact cause of depression is unclear. The primary goal of depression medications is to improve mood by changing the chemical composition of the brain.

How To Treat Depression With Medication

Tricyclic And Tetracyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants are the oldest antidepressants. These highly effective depression medications are still widely prescribed by doctors for alleviating the symptoms of depression. These medications work on the neurotransmitters or brain chemicals that help in the communication between the brain cells.

The tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants impair reabsorption (reuptake) of the two major brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, thereby increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain. Elevated levels of these brain chemicals improve communication between the brain cells, thus reducing depression and improving mood.

The generic names of the tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants approved by Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) are amoxapine, amitriptyline, doxepin, desipramine, maprotiline, impipramine, protriptyline, nortriptyline and trimipramine.

These conventional antidepressants cause more side effects than the new depression medications. The reactions to these medications vary from person to person. The common side effects include dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, fatigue, dizziness, urinary retention, elevated heart rate, low sex drive, delayed orgasm, low blood pressure, disorientation, nausea, headache, seizure, increase in appetite and weight gain.


Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are one of the earliest medications used for treating depression. These medications help to increase the availability of the brain chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine to the brain cells by suppressing activities of monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that removes the aforementioned neurotransmitters from the brain. Generic names of MAOIs approved by FDA are tranylcypromine, isocarboxazid, selegiline and phenelzine.

To enable these antidepressants to work and to prevent serious side effects such as high blood pressure, patients should follow a strict diet regime. Cheese, meat, pickled food, wine and beer rich in the amino acid tyramine should be avoided by people on MAOIs. MAOIs interact with tyramine leading to dramatic increase in the blood pressure level. These antidepressants might interact with other antidepressants, decongestants, painkillers and herbal supplements.

Common side effects of MAOIs are headache, dizziness, daytime drowsiness, diarrhea, dry mouth, nervousness, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, muscle ache, poor sex drive, urination difficulty, tingling sensation and weight gain.


Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are relatively safe than the traditional antidepressants and have fewer side effects than TCAs and MAOIs. These antidepressants work only on the neurotransmitter serotonin. They elevate the serotonin level by inhibiting reabsorption or reuptake of the brain chemical in the brain. Higher levels of serotonin help to improve mood and reduce depression. Generic names of SSRIs approved by FDA are fluoxetine, citalopram, sertraline and escitalopram.

Side effects of SSRIs vary according to the chemical composition of the medication taken by the patient. Nausea, headache, dry mouth, agitation, poor sex drive, excess sweating, drowsiness, insomnia, rash and weight gain may occur after taking these antidepressants. These medications may interact with blood-thinning drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and certain herbal supplements.


Serotonin And Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors boost mood by changing the chemical balance in the brain. These antidepressants stop reabsorption or reuptake of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Elevated levels of these brain chemicals improve transmission of signals between the brain cells. The generic names of SNRIs approved by FDA are venlafaxine, duloxetine and desvenlafaxine.

People taking SNRIs may experience dry mouth, dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia, constipation, excess perspiration, low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, rapid heartbeat, blurred vision, anxiety, headache, tremor, muscle weakness and appetite changes. Duloxetine may cause nausea. High blood pressure may occur after taking venlafaxine.



Bupropion is one of the new classes of antidepressants. It increases the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Available under various brand names, bupropion is widely prescribed to help people quit smoking. It is also effective in treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly known as winter blue.

Common side effects associated with bupropion use include restlessness, anxiety, dry mouth, insomnia, seizures, dizziness, poor appetite and weight loss.