How Antidepressants Work

At present I currently have only a very basic understanding of how antidepressants work.  I definitely think that being someone with a family like my own -full of mood craziness – and being someone who struggles constantly with bipolar, not to mention my current struggle of getting off Celexa, and I think that it’s well past logical time that I get up to date on this crap.

My current understanding is this;  the chemicals in your brain can dysfunction and when they do sometimes they don’t rebalance themselves and that is when you need the antidepressants.  They get your chemicals to straighten up and fly right again.  The imbalance can be caused by events in your life and/or your individual hereditary factors.  The problem is often fixable by shaping up your diet, fitness, social and spiritual lives, stress level, etc.  Not always.  There are different medicines, too.  All have side effects and they aren’t a one size fits all apparatus.  If you don’t stay on the medicine long enough your brain will simply return to functioning incorrectly.

The Citoploram (Celexa) is called an SSRI antidepressant.  There are several newer and older varieties of antidepressants but it appears that they all work in generally the same way: they prevent the nerve cells in your brain from absorbing something.  Say, the messenger cell that the nerve cell sent out with a message.  Or serotonin.  This along other things is theorized to make the pathways in your brain stronger since the now homeless messenger cells are stuck in them.  There doesn’t appear to be any cut and dry explanation for the treatment of mental disorders due to lack of knowledge.  Scientists don’t know as much about the brain as they would need to in order to figure out how the medicine helps, exactly. 

Here’s an interesting article I pulled from WebMD that helps explain this nonsensical stuff.

“Some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants are called reuptake inhibitors. What’s reuptake? It’s the process in which neurotransmitters are naturally reabsorbed back into nerve cells in the brain after they are released to send messages between nerve cells. A reuptake inhibitor prevents this from happening. Instead of getting reabsorbed, the neurotransmitter stays — at least temporarily — in the gap between the nerves, called the synapse.

What’s the benefit? The basic theory goes like this: keeping levels of the neurotransmitters higher could improve communication between the nerve cells — and that can strengthen circuits in the brain which regulate mood.”

photo from shutterstock

More reading on the topic leaves me with the information that scientists just aren’t sure what causes depression, and are unsure of how to fix it.  However, they do think that strengthening the pathways between nerve cells is the key to fixing the problem. 

So in some way or another every past and current antidepressant is assumed to work by blocking certain things in in your brain (for example Serotonin) from being reabsorbed into a cell once that cell had released it to go do it’s duty elsewhere (for example taking a message to another brain cell).  It’s assumed that this heals depression by mainly strengthening those circuits between cells but also in some antidepressants causing an increase in the number of the unabsorbed cells.

After realizing that the current and past antidepressants are unproven, confusing,  and all have unpleasant side effects I wondered why are we still using this?

The future of antidepressants is unclear and nothing extremely hopeful is on the horizon.  It seems like after years of research and who knows how much funding costs that nothing even remotely promising has came on the scene.  That has caused the major sources of funding to stop funding the research so nothing much new is on the horizon for at least several years yet. 

The exception here is ketamine.  Yeah, the party drug/horse tranquilizer!  Surprising but makes some sense.  It is a feel good drug after all.  Even Johnson and Johnson is looking into this one.  It’s still a long ways off and has several issues to resolve before any real testing can even be done.  The first problem is how to extend the time it lasts without having to repeatedly dose oneself all day every day.  The other main issue that is perhaps attached is the delivery method to eliminate side effects.  They are actually looking into ways such as nose sprays and shots in the head.  That could be why they are getting increased attention right there.  I imagine this could be useful in many medications.


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