What should I know about SSRIs?

Selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors are known as SSRIs. These are medications that are used to treat depression and panic attacks. They can also be used to prevent migraines. The amount prescribed varies from person to person. Most people have significantly fewer migraines after 3 or 4 weeks of treatment with SSRIs.

How do SSRIs work?

SSRIs decrease the frequency, severity, and duration of a migraine. They may work in the brain by changing the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin. These are the chemicals that are involved in both depression and headaches. The exact way they work in headaches is not known.


What are the possible side effects of SSRIs and what should I do about them?

Common side effects of SSRIs include:

  • decreased appetite
  • difficulty sleeping
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • headache (milder than the headaches they are meant to prevent)
  • nausea
  • nervousness
  • restlessness
  • sexual dysfunction

If you experience any of these side effects, discuss them with your doctor.

What are the possible drug interactions with SSRIs?

If you are already taking SSRIs and you will be taking additional medications, even over-the-counter medication, it is important to tell your doctor. Taking SSRIs with other medications can cause very serious unwanted effects and possibly death. These medications include:

  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as Nardil (phenelzine), Marplan (isocarboxazid), and Parnate (tranylcypromine)
  • stimulants such as Fastin (phentermine)

Make sure your doctor is aware of every medicine, both over-the-counter and prescription, that you are taking.


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