Types of Antidepressant Medications

Depression is a common disorder that frequently co-occurs with addiction. Medication is often prescribed to help improve the moods of people suffering from depression.

This page will go over the common types of antidepressants, considerations for people with co-occurring substance use disorder (SUD), and how comprehensive treatment can help people struggling with both depression and addiction.

What are Antidepressants?

meeting with doctor prescribing antidepressantsAs the name implies, antidepressants are medications used to treat depression; however, they are also sometimes used to treat other conditions, like anxiety or bipolar disorders.

Different medications will work for different people, depending on their needs. Some types of antidepressants take a few weeks to begin working. It is important for people taking antidepressants to stay in contact with their prescribing physician or psychiatrist in order to keep track of the medication’s effectiveness.

5 Types of Antidepressants

There are five basic categories of antidepressant medications.

  1. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Prescribing physicians or psychiatrists will often begin by prescribing this type of antidepressant. For most people, SSRIs effectively moderate mood, with fewer side effects than other medications. These medications work by blocking some reuptake of serotonin, so mood is elevated. Paxil, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, and Zoloft are all commonly prescribed SSRI antidepressants.
  2. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): These medications work by blocking both serotonin and norepinephrine from being absorbed by neurons, so the effects of these neurotransmitters linger in the brain longer, allowing changed communication between neurons and elevated mood. These antidepressants include Cymbalta, Effexor, Fetzima, and Pristiq.
  3. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): These antidepressants tend to be a little more powerful than SSRIs or SNRIs, and they also cause more side effects. They were some of the earliest antidepressants but have fallen out of favor over time. Tricyclic antidepressants are not prescribed often; usually, they are prescribed in the instance that other antidepressants like SSRIs have not been effective. These medications increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain by both blocking reuptake and changing output of the neurotransmitters. Medications in this category include Elavil, Tofranil, and Pamelor.
  4. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): These are rarely prescribed, unless all other categories of antidepressants have failed to work. This was one of the first classes of antidepressants on the market, and they work by preventing monoamine oxidase from removing neurotransmitters from the brain, especially norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. There are serious side effects associated with MAOIs, and the medication interacts with several types of foods, including some cheeses, pickles, and wine in ways that can be dangerous or deadly. Additionally, MAOIs interact with many other medications, including birth control pills, over-the-counter decongestants, and some herbal supplements. People who take MAOIs must follow a restricted diet and carefully examine any other medications they take. MAOI medications include Marplan, Nardil, and Parnate.
  5. Other antidepressants: Other types of antidepressants that don’t fit into the above categories include Wellbutrin, which is a norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRI), Oleptro and Remeron, which are sedating antidepressants, and other medications that are used in conjunction with antidepressants to increase the effectiveness of the antidepressant.

Treatment for mental health conditions is highly individualized; just because one type of medication or treatment is effective for one person doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for another person. This is why so many different types of medication are utilized.

Depression and Substance Use

People who struggle with any kind of mental health conditions—like bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, or depression—often also struggle with substance abuse. In fact, studies have shown that about half of the population that suffers from a mental health disorder will also suffer from substance use disorder in their lifetime, and vice versa.

Substance use can be a way people attempt to “self-medicate” the symptoms of their depression. Unfortunately, this worsens their depression in the long run, simultaneously worsening their addiction and potentially leading to other serious physical, social, and mental health consequences.

Other people may experience mental illness as a result of chronic substance use, since drug or alcohol use can cause changes in brain structure and chemistry over time.

Additionally, many people struggle with co-occurring disorders and SUDs caused by common risk factors such as genetic predisposition or environmental influences (e.g., trauma or high stress living situations).

It is often difficult for professionals to pinpoint which came first or what caused someone’s depression or addiction. Fortunately, research has shown that integrated treatment—the simultaneous treatment of addiction and co-occurring disorders—is most effective in helping patients recover from both depression and addiction.

Help for Depression and Addiction

young woman with depression feeling sad and looking out the window at the rainTreatment for SUD and depression often involves a combination of behavioral therapies, medication (if needed), psychoeducation, and peer support. When seeking treatment, it’s crucial that patients find help at a facility equipped to treat co-occurring disorders alongside addiction. Through treatment, patients can:

  • Safely withdraw from substances in medical detox.
  • Learn ways to avoid and cope with triggers.
  • Build healthy relationships and form a support network.
  • Repair negative thought patterns that may lead to relapse.

A more detailed breakdown of how effective treatment for co-occurring depression and addiction can be found on our page on depression and substance use disorder.

With professional help, individuals can learn to manage both their addiction and their depression so they can embrace healthier, happier lives.

Sunrise House Treatment Center in New Jersey is equipped to treat patients suffering from co-occurring disorders, providing several types of addiction treatment based on patient’s unique needs. Upon admission, clinicians form a personalized treatment plan for each patient.

Call  to speak to one of our admissions navigators to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one reach your recovery goals. Call now to learn more about your rehab payment options or verify your insurance for treatment.

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