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by    Anthony Kane, MD
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Depression Medicine

by David McEvoy

No one knows what causes depression and there are many variations in the way a depressive disorder can manifest itself. It isn't possible to tell who is going to develop depression, and there is no way of knowing what medication might help or even exactly how each medicine works.

What is known is that without assistance, it is possible for depression to continue for weeks, months or sometimes years and that medicine can help, but which one? Again, this will differ from person to person and with so many medicines available, both on prescription and over the counter, where do you start?

The following represents a list of medicines commonly used to treat depression.

Prescribed Medicines

If you suffer from clinical or more severe forms of depression, then it likely that you will be prescribed medication by your Doctor. There are several different types available and these include Tricyclics (TCAs), Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) and many others. All of them work in various ways to alter the activity of certain chemicals in the brain that have an impact on our mood and how we feel.

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    Just as depression affects each individual differently, so too does the effect of any medication. After an assessment of your symptoms and the possibility of undesirable side effects, your doctor will identify the most appropriate one to begin with and will probably start you on a low dose and if there is no change after a number of weeks, a higher dose or perhaps an alternative medication will be prescribed.

Over the Counter Medicines

There are many preparations on the market that can be bought over the counter, which are probably more suited to milder forms of depression but it is always important to discuss options with your doctor first as even seemingly safe medicines can carry risks, particularly if you have other health problems and are already taking some form of medication.


SAMe or S-Adenosylmethionine to use its full name, is a naturally occurring substance in the body that is involved in many biochemical processes. Research has shown that some people suffering from depression have lower levels than those who are not. SAMe appears to work by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, for example, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, all of which play an important role in determining our mood.

One advantage of taking SAMe is that it can start to work quite quickly and has the added bonus of having fewer side effects than conventional medicine.

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St John's Wort

St. John's Wort or Hypericum perforatum has increasingly been recognised for the beneficial effect it can have on mild to moderate depression. It appears to work, at least in part, in much the same way as Prozac by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin.

One of the main concerns with St. John's Wort is that it does interact with many other drugs to produce some undesirable effects so it is particularly important to discuss the implications of taking St John's Wort with your GP first.


The full term for this is 5-hydroxytyptophan, which is a type of amino acid produced by the body that can be converted into serotonin. As well as lifting mood by increasing serotonin levels, it also appears to improve sleeping patterns, aids weight loss, and exerts a positive influence on many other physiological processes.

It has been used to help alleviate the symptoms of migraine, insomnia and Fibromyalgia amongst others, but is most commonly used to help treat depression.

Fish Oil

People suffering from depression tend to have lower levels of Omega 3 fatty acids in their blood and supplementing with fish oil has been found to be effective in reducing the symptoms of depression and other mood related disorders including bipolar disorder and post natal depression.

The most important Omega 3 fatty acids are Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), however, DHA is important for healthy structure of the brain but it is EPA that appears the most significant for healthy brain function on a day to day basis.

EPA has powerful anti inflammatory properties, can increase serotonin levels and improve blood flow to the brain. Research indicates that fish oil with a high EPA content is better than standard fish oil containing lower ratios of EPA to DHA.

Homeopathic Remedies

There are a number of doctors and other health professionals who also prescribe homeopathic remedies. Although it is possible to purchase homeopathic remedies over the counter, it is wise to seek the advice of a trained homeopath that will be able to take into account many other factors in order to give the most appropriate preparation.

Homeopathy works on the philosophy that "like cures like" so that whatever causes the symptoms of a particular condition can be cured by the very same thing if given in a much diluted form.

Examples of homeopathic remedies include Veratrum album, Natrium muriaticum and Ignatia, all of which can be used to treat depression. One of the main benefits of homeopathic remedies is that they are safe to use and you don't have to discontinue other medications whilst taking them. The Homeopathic Association keeps a register of qualified doctors, nurses and dentists who are also qualified homeopathic practitioners.

Depression and anxiety are serious conditions that can strike anyone at anytime. For more information about depression and self help come and visit

Anthony Kane, MD

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