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Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) for Depression

SSRIs are the most widely prescribed type of antidepressants. They're usually preferred over other antidepressants, as they cause fewer side effects. An overdose is also less likely to be serious. Fluoxetine is probably the best known SSRI (sold under the brand name Prozac). Other SSRIs include Citalopram (Celexa), Cipralex (Escitalopram) and Zoloft (Sertraline).

serotonin SSRIs for Depression

How SSRIs Work
Medicines known as reuptake inhibitors increase the amount of particular neurotransmitters in the brain by preventing unused neurotransmitters from moving back into the pre-synaptic neuron. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors - as they are also known - increase the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Serotonin has many roles in the body, including the regulation of your appetite, your sleeping patterns, your body temperature and your memory. It also plays a primary role in regulating your mood, which is the main reason why supplemental serotonin, the most common form of antidepressant, is prescribed for people experiencing anxiety or depression. People of both the male and female gender with anxiety disorders exhibit lower levels of serotonin than normal.

How effective are SSRI antidepressants?
About 5-7 in 10 people with moderate or severe depression have an improvement in symptoms within a few weeks of starting treatment with an antidepressant. However, up to 3 in 10 people improve with dummy tablets (placebos), as some people would have improved in this time naturally. So, if you have depression, you are roughly twice as likely to improve with an antidepressant compared with taking no treatment. But, they do not work in everybody. As a rule, the more severe the depression, the greater the chance that an antidepressant will work well.

People who should take extra care with SSRIs
Make sure you tell your doctor if you have, or have had in the past, any of the following conditions (you might need to take extra precautions, or another medicine might be more suitable):
- epilepsy or reduced seizure threshold
- bipolar disorder
- stomach bleeding
- liver problems
Get advice about the risks of taking antidepressants, directly from your doctor or from a specialist information line, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or thinking about becoming pregnant.