September 8, 2022


Writer: Alanna O'Neill Editor: Lupita Padilla Image: Canva made by Alanna

Hello and welcome to another blog post! Today we will be discussing anti-depressants.

Have you ever wondered what exactly anti-depressants are and how they work? Understanding the science behind anti-depressants, even at a basic level, may help ease stress and confusion surrounding why it may or may not be beneficial for you to consider consuming them during your mental health journey.

There are many different types of anti-depressants used today and they all work in slightly different ways. In addition to common anti-depressants, there is ongoing exciting research exploring the possible use of other drugs, such as hallucinogens, to treat depressive symptoms. Today we will focus on discussing some of the more commonly used anti-depressants.

Types of Antidepressants

    Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • These are the most widely used/prescribed antidepressant
  • They tend to have less side effects compared to other anti-depressants and the risk of overdose is low
  • They work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter, which is essentially just a chemical in the brain that can carry signals between cells. SSRIs prevent brain cells from reabsorbing serotonin which allows more serotonin to be present in the brain. Serotonin has been found to be increased during more positive social behaviors, such as cooperation and affiliation. Therefore increasing serotonin may be one way to combat the negative behaviors associated with depression.
  • Commonly used SSRIs: Fluoxetine (Prozac), Citalopram (Cipramil), Escitalpram (Cipralex), Paroxetine (Seroxat), and Sertraline (Lustral)

    Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)
  • Older type of antidepressant - usually not prescribed as first option anymore due to the dangers accompanied with overdose and greater side effects
  • However, sometimes people may respond more effectively to these drugs than SSRIs, and are recommended in cases with other mental health conditions such as OCD and bipolar disorder
  • TCAs are a bit more complicated in how they work. They increase not only levels of serotonin, but also another neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. Norepinephrine has been associated with increasing alertness and arousal. They also work to lower the amounts of a different neurotransmitter, called acetylcholine. Some evidence indicates that increase in acetylcholine could lead to a depressed mood, so TCAs work to lower the amounts of acetylcholine while increasing the amounts of serotonin and norepinephrine.
  • Commonly used TCAs : amitriptyline, clomipramine, dosulepin, imipramine, lofepramine, and nortriptyline

    Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs)
  • Can be effective for people who are not able to take SSRIs
  • NASSAs also work to increase levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine to try to improve mood.
  • Commonly used NASSA : Mirtazapine/Remeron

There are many kinds of medications out there to try to treat depression. As research is still ongoing into how and why exactly depression occurs, these drugs may act in different ways.  Understanding how these medications impact your body may feel overwhelming at first, but you have the power and knowledge to be able to understand how they impact you. Thank you for reading today to learn more about anti-depressants.