Antidepressant medications are not just the most commonly prescribed medication for the treatment of depression, but among certain groups in the United States, antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed class of drugs on the market.
Though antidepressant medications can be extremely effective in helping patients to manage the symptoms of depression, it is important to note that they are not enough to treat moderate to severe depression. In those cases, therapeutic intervention is also needed, and patients are encouraged to take part in a comprehensive treatment program for optimum success in recovery.
Types of Antidepressants
There are many kinds of antidepressants on the market, and the one that will work best for you or your loved one will depend upon the symptoms experienced, other medications being taken, and other special circumstances (e.g., pregnancy, breastfeeding, chronic illness, etc.).
The most commonly prescribed type of antidepressants is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These include Zoloft, Prozac and others. Another type of antidepressants is serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) (e.g., Cymbalta, Effexor). One unique medication (unique because it is neither a SSRI nor a SNRI) is buproprion, or Wellbutrin. Older antidepressants that are not as commonly prescribed include tricyclics, tetracyclics, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). For some, these medications will work best, but they are often not the first line of defense against depression.
Commonly Prescribed Antidepressants
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that the following are the most often prescribed drugs for the treatment of depression:
- Buproprion (e.g., Wellbutrin)
- Citalopram (e.g., Celexa)
- Desvenlafaxine (e.g., Pristiq)
- Duloxetine (e.g., Cymbalta)
- Escitalopram (e.g., Lexapro)
- Fluoxetine (e.g., Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (e.g., Luvox)
- Mirtazpine (e.g., Remeron)
- Nefazodone (e.g., Serzone)
- Paroxetine (e.g., Paxil)
- Sertraline (e.g., Zoloft)
- Trazodone (e.g., Desyrel)
- Venlafaxine (e.g., Effexor)
In studies, all of these medications have worked well. However, the HHS noted that only three in five patients generally see improvement in their condition with the first antidepressant they try. Many patients will try a variety of medications and/or combinations and doses in order to begin to see an effect. Additionally, almost all of the medications take a few weeks to build up in the system and have an effect on depression symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the following is true about the use of medication for depression treatment in the United States:
- Antidepressant drugs were the third most common type of medication prescribed in the United States between 2005 and 2008 to Americans of all ages.
- Antidepressants were the most frequently prescribed drug to those between the ages of 18 and 44.
- Between 1988 and 1994, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants in the US increased by almost 400 percent.
- An estimated 11 percent of the US population takes an antidepressant.
- Women are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than men. The drugs are also more commonly used by Caucasians as compared to other ethnic groups.
- An estimated 33 percent of people diagnosed with severe depression are prescribed antidepressants.
- About 60 percent of those taking antidepressants have been doing so for more than two years; about 14 percent have been taking them for a decade or longer.
- Less than 33 percent of patients taking a single antidepressant and less than 50 percent of patients taking more than one antidepressant have seen a mental health specialist in the past 12 months.
Dual Diagnosis Depression Treatment
For those who struggle with depression, living with a drug or alcohol abuse problem is often a part of the equation. Contact us at the phone number listed above today to find the right rehab program to address depression and co-occurring addiction or drug abuse issues today.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton