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Dr. Jerman
Medications prescribed to treat depression are called antidepressants. Dr. Mansfield, can you tell us about some common antidepressants and how they work?

Dr. Mansfield
Certainly, Dr. Jerman. Some common antidepressants often prescribed to treat depression include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs
  • Mirtazapine, and
  • Bupropion

It's believed that one of the contributing factors of depression is an imbalance of a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger in the brain, called serotonin. The nerves in the brain communicate with each other by releasing and absorbing serotonin. The nerve cell that releases the serotonin "reuptakes," or gathers back up, any extra serotonin left over after release. SSRIs stop the releasing nerve cell from "reuptaking" the serotonin so that there's more serotonin available for the second nerve to absorb. With an increase in the amount of serotonin traveling between the nerves, messages can be sent and delivered throughout the brain more effectively.

SNRIs work much the same way, but in addition to blocking the reuptake of serotonin, they also block or delay the reuptake of another neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. The net result of an increase in levels of serotonin and norepinephrine tends to elevate mood.

Mirtazapine and bupropion both work to increase certain types of activity in the brain to restore chemical balance.