Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressants considered the current standard of drug treatment. A possible cause of depression is an inadequate amount of serotonin, a chemical used in the brain to transmit signals between neurons. SSRIs are said to work by preventing the reuptake of serotonin (also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine, or 5-HT) by the presynaptic neuron, thus maintaining higher levels of 5-HT in the synapse. Chemists Klaus Schmiegel and Bryan Molloy of Eli Lilly discovered the first SSRI, fluoxetine. This class of drugs includes:
Citalopram (Celexa, Cipramil)
Escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex, Seroplex, Lexamil)
Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem, Symbyax)
Paroxetine (Paxil, Aropax)
These antidepressants typically have fewer adverse effects than the tricyclics or the MAOIs, although such effects as drowsiness, dry mouth, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, decreased appetite, long-term weight gain and decreased ability to function sexually may occur. Some side effects may decrease as a person adjusts to the drug, but other side effects may be persistent.
Work by two researchers has called into question the link between serotonin deficiency and symptoms of depression, noting that the efficacy of SSRIs as treatment does not in itself prove the link. Research indicates that these drugs may interact with transcription factors known as “clock genes”, which may play a role in the addictive properties of drugs (drug abuse), and possibly in obesity.
A systematic review of randomized controlled trials published in the Archives of General Psychiatry showed that up to one-third of the 6-week effect of SSRI Treatment can be seen in the first week. The same study also found that patients treated with SSRIs were 64% more likely to achieve a 50% absolute reduction in HRSD than patients given a placebo.
Citalopram (Celexa): usual dosing is 20 mg initially; maintenance 40 mg per day; maximum dose 60 mg per day.
Escitalopram (Lexapro, Cipralex): usual dosing is 10 mg and shown to be as effective as 20 mg in most cases. Maximum dose 20 mg. Also helps with anxiety.
Paroxetine (Paxil, Seroxat): Also used to treat panic disorder, OCD, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD. Usual dose 25 mg per day; may be increased to 40 mg per day. Available in controlled release 12.5 to 37.5 mg per day; controlled release dose maximum 50 mg per day. Less cycling in patients who are bipolar.
Fluoxetine (Prozac): Also used to treat OCD, bulimia, and panic disorder. Long half-life; less withdrawal when medication is stopped. Dosing is 20 mg to a maximum of 80 mg.
Fluvoxamine (Luvox): Although primarily used in the treatment of OCD, a doctor may prescribe it for depression. Initial dose is 50 mg, increasing by 50 mg every 4-7 days. If daily dose is greater than 100 mg give in equally divided doses or give larger dose at bedtime not to exceed 300 mg per day.
Sertraline (Zoloft, Lustral): Also used to treat panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Dosing is 50-200 mg per day and should be titrated upward.
Be aware of drug interactions. Dextromethorphan (found in many brands of over-the-counter cough syrup) as well as the opioids tramadol (Tramal, Ultram), and pethidine/meperidine are contraindicated with all SSRIs as they are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRIs) themselves and the combination could cause the potentially fatal serotonin syndrome. Many SSRIs inhibit the metabolism of dextromethorphan as well, further adding to the risk.
Always check with pharmacy regarding potential drug interactions.
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