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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health


When Medication Is Prescribed

You or a family member should ask the following questions when a medication is prescribed:

  • What is the medication supposed to do?
  • How and when should I take it?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • When and how should I stop taking it?
  • Will it interact with other medications I take?
  • Do I need to avoid any types of food or drink while taking the medication?
  • Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking this medication?
  • What are the side effects?

After taking the medication for a short time, tell your doctor how you feel and any concerns you have about the medicine.


Types of Medications

There are several types of medications used to treat depression. These include newer antidepressant medications—chiefly what are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)—and older ones, called tricyclics and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). In addition to medications, a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help relieve depression. (See accompanying article, "Working It Out.")

Sometimes, a doctor will try a variety of antidepressants before finding the most effective medication or combination of medications for the patient.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs):

  • citalopram (brand name: Celexa)
  • escitalopram (brand name: Lexapro)
  • fluoxetine (brand name: Prozac)
  • paroxetine (brand names: Paxil, Pexeva)
  • sertraline (brand name: Zoloft)

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs):

  • venlafaxine (brand name: Effexor)
  • duloxetine (brand name: Cymbalta)

Another antidepressant that is commonly used is bupropion (brand name: Wellbutrin). Bupropion works on the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is unique in that it does not fit into any specific drug type.


  • amitriptyline (brand name: Elavil)
  • desipramine (brand name: Norpramin)
  • imipramine (brand name: Tofranil)
  • nortriptyline (brand name: Aventyl, Pamelor)

Read More "Depression" Articles

"Depression Can Disguise Itself…" —But There Is Help / Working It Out / Do You Have Major Depression? / When Medication Is Prescribed

Fall 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 4 Pages 17 - 19