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The purpose of proper treatment is to reach remission, get people back to their lives and prevent a recurrance. The point is to achieve zero symptoms.

Antidepressants are one effective treatment option for depression, and we have a clear understanding of how they work.

Antidepressants target the changes in the neurotransmitters (brain chemistry) that take place during an episode of depression. Anti-depressants affect neurotransmitters such as:

  • Serotonin
  • Norepinephrine
  • Dopamine

As with any medication (antibiotics etc.) the possibility of side-effects must be considered. It is the responsibility of health professionals to explain what you will be taking, the risks, benefits and possible alternatives.

Most often a client who chooses medication for treatment has determined that the benefits outweigh the risks.

When deciding on an antidepressant the physician will talk about options with the client and discuss:

  • Potential drug interactions
  • Side-effects

Not everyone reacts the same way to the same medication so clients should be prepared for the possibility that finding the right ‘fit’ could take more than one try. The process may require patience, however when a client receives the correct medication they can expect to find relief.

Older adults may be taking other forms of medication for other medical reasons. Physicians usually prescribe:

  • The safest antidepressant medication available
  • Antidepressants that will not cause ‘drug-to-drug’ complications
  • Antidepressants that will not affect memory
  • Medications that are easy to take and are easily tolerated

Each person is different, has different biology and handles medication differently.There is no one, specific antidepressant considered ‘the best’ for seniors. Instead, research shows that many medications work quite well, but there are different side effects associated with different groups of medications.

Taking medication(s) properly – and as prescribed – is crucial.

The length of time a client stays on medication is critical to its success:

  • Antidepressants take time to work properly
  • An average of six weeks is an appropriate length of time to determine whether the medication works
  • Improvement is not immediate
  • Improvement in sleep and appetite are often the first signs of success
  • Just as it takes time to become ill with depression – it takes time to become well

If a client has improved but is not 100 per cent improved, it is a common prescribing practice to try a combination of medications to achieve the desired outcome. For the treatment of other illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and control of cholesterol, a combination of medications is sometimes the appropriate approach for symptom relief. The same is true with depression. A physician may prescribe an additional medication that:

  • Complements the original medication
  • Is different from the original medication – from a different family or class
  • Is a non-antidepressant such as lithium (a very effective medication) or an antipsychotic

Medications can be extremely effective as a treatment option for depression. Different strategies and/or a combination of medications can provide a good result and offer the client relief of symptoms.

Medication used for depression is not a crutch. It is a means for improving quality of life.

You wouldn’t consider coming off heart, blood pressure or diabetes medication. The same holds true for medication prescribed for depression.