Why and How
Published in

Why and How

How Do Antidepressants Work?

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

What are antidepressants?

An antidepressant is a type of drug that is used to treat symptoms of depression by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. In some cases, antidepressants are also used to treat anxiety disorders, chronic pain, and addictions.

What is the history of antidepressants?

Before the invention of antidepressants, doctors around the world believed that psychotherapy was the only way to treat depression.

A drug called iproniazid, discovered in the 1950s, was originally used to treat tuberculosis. In 1952, doctors realized that this drug not only treated tuberculosis but also improved the mood of the patients who used that drug.

In 1956, another drug called imipramine was used to treat allergic reactions in the body. A doctor in Switzerland discovered that this drug also had similar effects of improving the mood of patients.

How do antidepressants help in reducing your sadness?

After a lot of research, it was found that iproniazid and imipramine, affected a group of neurotransmitters called monoamines.

Okay before moving on, let me tell you what a neurotransmitter is, for those of you who don’t know. Basically, neurotransmitters are molecules present inside the human body that acts as chemical messengers between different cells in the body.

Now let’s come back to the topic. After the discovery of these two antidepressant drugs, scientists started believing that depression is caused by having an insufficient amount of monoamines in the synapses of the brain. A synapse is a small space between two cells, where messages are passed from one cell to the other.

In the 1970s, after years of research, it was found that one monoamine was most important among others and any antidepressant that targeted this monoamine was the most effective. The name of this monoamine was serotonin.

Modern antidepressants block the reabsorption of serotonin. This results in preventing serotonin from leaving the brain. More serotonin in the brain leads to a reduction in sadness experienced by the person having depression.

Antidepressants change the monoamine levels present in the brain, and patients experience the benefit of it after some time.

There is still no solid scientific theory as to what exactly causes depression and why antidepressants work the way they do.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store