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Understanding Antidepressant Medications (cont.)

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications affect the levels of serotonin in the brain. For many people, these medications are the first choice to treat depression. Examples of these medications are:

How do SSRIs work?

The antidepressant action of SSRIs is not thoroughly understood but is possibly due to the ability of SSRIs to block the uptake of serotonin, thereby providing higher levels of serotonin at the brain receptor site.

Who should not use these medications?

  • Individuals who are allergic to SSRIs
  • Individuals who are currently taking, or have taken within the past two weeks, thioridazine (Mellaril), pimozide (Orap), or monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate)
  • Individuals must not take MAOIs or thioridazine for at least five weeks after stopping SSRIs.


  • SSRIs may be administered as oral tablets, capsules, or liquid once or twice a day. Prozac Weekly is administered once each week.
  • Do not discontinue these medications abruptly, but gradually taper use to avoid withdrawal-like symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, confusion, dizziness, headache, and insomnia.
  • Elderly individuals typically require lower doses of SSRIs.

Children: Fluoxetine (Prozac) is the only SSRI approved by the FDA for treatment of depression in children aged 8-18 years.

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