What Are the Most Common Antidepressants?

The 5 Most Common Antidepressants

Most common antidepressants
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The most common antidepressants prescribed to patients are those belonging to a class called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

SSRIs are antidepressants that work by preventing the reuptake (movement back into the nerve endings) of a neurotransmitter called serotonin.

Serotonin is a natural substance produced both in the gut and in the brain. It has essential functions in both places.

Low levels of serotonin in the gut have long been associated with irritable bowel syndrome, osteoporosis and even cardiovascular disease.  Because serotonin functions in the brain as a vital information transmitter, low levels of serotonin in the have been associated with depression and anxiety as well as panic and obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Twenty-first century studies have shown, incidentally, that insufficient serotonin in the gut can have mental health consequences as well. 

The way in which common SSRI antidepressants work to diminish or eliminate these is known generally, although certain details are not. In any event, SSRIs are generally preferred by doctors and patients over the older classes of antidepressants -- monoamineoxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and tricyclics -- because they have fewer side effects and are relatively safe in overdose.

The Five Most Popular SSRIs

Below is a list of the five most popular brand name antidepressants, which are all SSRIs: They are all available as generics.

  • Prozac (fluoxetine). Still the most prescribed of all antidepressants, Prozac is generally effective and well-tolerated, although one known side effect it shares with some, not all, antidepressants, is that it can inhibit sexual function in males. Its effect on female sexual function is not well understood. Special caution is recommended when the antidepressant is first prescribed, particularly in adolescents; it can increase suicidal thoughts, for instance, although in most cases the symptom diminishes with use. Suddenly discontinuing Prozac can produce moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms.


Other Antidepressants

Other commonly used antidepressants include serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which inhibit the reuptake of another neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, in addition to serotonin. This class includes antidepressants such as Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine). In addition, the antidepressant Wellbutrin (bupropion) is a popular choice. Wellbutrin works in a unique fashion, acting upon the neurotransmitter dopamine, and does not fit into any specific drug class. Like SSRIs, these antidepressants are popular choices because they have fewer side effects than the older antidepressants.

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