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Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
Safety concerns with cyclic antidepressants
There are a number of things to consider before taking a cyclic antidepressant:
- Antidepressants and pregnancy. Some antidepressants may harm your child if you take them during pregnancy or while you're breast-feeding. If you're taking an antidepressant and you're considering getting pregnant, talk to your doctor or mental health provider about the possible dangers. Don't stop taking your medication without contacting your doctor first.
- Drug interactions. When taking an antidepressant, be sure to tell your doctor about any other medications or supplements you're taking. Some antidepressants can cause dangerous reactions when combined with certain medications or herbal remedies.
- Serotonin syndrome. Rarely, a cyclic antidepressant can cause dangerously high levels of serotonin. This is known as serotonin syndrome. It most often occurs when two medications that raise serotonin are combined. These include other antidepressants, medications for certain health conditions and the herbal supplement St. John's wort. Signs and symptoms of serotonin syndrome include confusion, rapid or irregular heartbeat, dilated pupils, fever and unconsciousness. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these signs or symptoms.
- Safety and blood tests. High doses of cyclic antidepressants can cause serious health problems. You may need periodic blood tests to check levels of a cyclic antidepressant in your bloodstream, particularly if you're taking a high dose.
- Chronic health conditions. Cyclic antidepressants can cause problems in people with certain health conditions. If you have narrow-angle glaucoma, an enlarged prostate, heart problems, thyroid problems or a history of seizures, talk to your doctor about whether a cyclic antidepressant is a safe choice for you.
- Blood sugar and diabetes. If you have diabetes, you may need to check your blood sugar often while taking a cyclic antidepressant. These medications can affect blood sugar levels.
- Drowsiness. Cyclic antidepressants can make you drowsy and may reduce your ability to drive or use machinery safely.
Stopping treatment with cyclic antidepressants
Cyclic antidepressants aren't considered addictive. However, stopping treatment abruptly or missing several doses can cause withdrawal-like symptoms, including:
- Flu-like symptoms
This is sometimes called discontinuation syndrome. Work with your doctor to gradually decrease your dose.
Suicide risk and antidepressants
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all antidepressants carry a warning that some children, adolescents and young adults may be at increased risk of suicide when taking antidepressants. Anyone taking an antidepressant should be watched closely for worsening depression or unusual behavior — especially in the first few weeks after starting an antidepressant. Keep in mind, antidepressants are more likely to reduce suicide risk in the long run by improving mood.
Finding the right antidepressant
Each person reacts differently to a particular antidepressant and may be more susceptible to certain side effects. Because of this, one antidepressant may work better for you than another. When choosing an antidepressant, your doctor will take into account your particular symptoms, what health problems you have, what other medications you take and what has worked for you in the past. Sometimes a combination of antidepressants may be the best treatment choice.
Inherited traits play a role in how antidepressants affect you. In some cases, DNA tests such as cytochrome P450 (CYP450) tests may give clues as to whether an antidepressant is likely to ease symptoms or cause side effects. DNA testing isn't widely used yet, but is becoming more common.
It can take a long time to find the best treatment for depression. It takes several weeks or longer before an antidepressant is fully effective and for initial side effects to ease up. You may need to try several antidepressants before you find the right one, but hang in there. With patience, you and your doctor can find a medication that works well for you.Previous page
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- Schatzberg AF, et al. Antidepressants: Introduction. In: Schatzberg AF, et al. Manual of Clinical Psychopharmacology. 7th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2010. http://www.psychiatryonline.com/content.aspx?aID=600624. Accessed Oct. 5, 2010.
- Fava M, et al. Antidepressants. In: Stern TA, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby. 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/221513496-3/0/1657/421.html?tocnode=57543329&fromURL=421.html#4-u1.0-B978-0-323-04743-2..50045-7_1104. Accessed Oct. 5, 2010.
- Hirsch M, et al. Tricyclic and tetracyclic drugs for treating depressed adults http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Oct. 7, 2010.