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List and Types of Depression Medications

Bipolar Medications Library

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Updated August 05, 2010

Depression medication types are mostly named for the way they work, with a couple of exceptions. There are also some drugs not deemed antidepressants that still help to alleviate depression. Many of those drugs also are used in treating bipolar depression.

The depression medications called antidepressants have the following types:

SSRIs

SSRI stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. In simple terms, this means that these drugs work to allow more of a particular brain chemical called serotonin to be available for the nerves in the brain to use. This has been shown to help depression.

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There is another depression medication, Symbyax, that is a combination of Prozac and Zyprexa (olanzapine). Symbyax is specifically targeted to treat bipolar depression and may be used by some doctors for other disorders.

SNRIs

SNRI stands for serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. These drugs work to allow two different brain chemicals, serotonin and norepinephrine, to be more available. As with serotonin, having more norepinephrine available has been shown to help depression.

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Tricyclics

Tricyclics are not named for how they work, but rather for their chemical structure. They are the oldest class of depression medications. Some of the tricyclics make more serotonin available in the brain, some more norepinephrine, and some both. Because these are older drugs, they are usually sold in generic form rather than under brand names.

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MAOIs

MAOI stands for monoamine oxidase inhibitor. These are the second oldest class of depression medications. These work to make three different brain chemicals more available - serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Because of the way MAOIs work, there are many dietary restrictions and cautions about using them.

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Atypical Antidepressants

These depression medications are called "atypical" because they don't have any chemical relationship to any of the other types.

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Page 1: Depression Medication - Questions and Answers

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