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Harvard Commentaries
Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Drug Treatment

February 14, 2014

Drug Resource Center
Drug Treatment
Drug Treatment
There are several important things to consider if you decide on drug treatment for your depression.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Drug Treatment
There are several important things to consider if you decide on drug treatment for your depression:
    • It may take weeks before you begin to feel a positive response.
    • All drugs have side effects. Some of these effects are mild, some are more serious. You may have no side effects at all.
    • Antidepressants and other mental-health drugs can interact with other drugs you may be taking.
    • Antidepressants and other mental-health drugs can have an effect on other illnesses you may have.
    • Drug treatment should be monitored by a health-care provider.
    • Don't stop taking any drug without discussing it with your health-care provider. You can develop unwanted symptoms if you stop taking a drug abruptly.
Finding The Right Drug For You
If you are depressed, your health-care provider may recommend several different drugs depending on your condition. For example, antidepressants will target the brain chemicals that influence your depression. Mood stabilizers treat the ups and downs of mood that are common in bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. Or you may need an antianxiety drug (if anxiety accompanies your depression) or an antipsychotic drug (if thought distortion accompanies your depression).
Here's the full range of drugs that may be used in the treatment of depression:
No antidepressant works immediately. Although they have an immediate effect on the brain's chemical messengers, their effect on depression takes several days to weeks. Although it is possible to get relief sooner, count on an antidepressant drug taking at least two to four weeks, if not longer, to show its full effect.
Mood Stabilizers
Mood stabilizers are useful in the treatment of bipolar disorder, but they are also used in the treatment of depression. They may be used alone or in combination with other mental-health drugs. For example, they sometimes are prescribed to enhance the action of antidepressants.
Antianxiety Drugs
Because anxiety is common in depression, drugs to reduce anxiety can be very helpful.
Antipsychotic Drugs
Distorted thinking can be a symptom of depression. Antipsychotic drugs are very good at helping a person better recognize reality. These drugs are sometimes used in very low doses to enhance the effects of antidepressants.


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