Antidepressants (ADs) are the most frequently prescribed psychiatric medications. In fact, considering all medicines, ADs are among the most commonly prescribed medications by all doctors. More than a dozen ADs are currently available and they can be broken down into four classes. Two classes of antidepressants have been used for more than 30 years-the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and the tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). These agents work as well as the newer classes of ADs, but they are more likely to cause bothersome side effects. Also, when taken in overdose they can be lethal.
Ten years ago the treatment of depression was advanced with the availability of the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac. The major advantages of the new generation of medications are that they have fewer side effects than the older generation, and they are not lethal in overdose. In the past 10 years 7 additional medications have been approved by the PDA for the treatment of depression including three other SSRIs (Zoloft, Paxil, and Celexa), and other medications that have different biological effects (Effexor, Remeron, Serzone, and Wellbutrin).