Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

By: Bobbie Hasselbring

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are currently considered to be first-line agents for the treatment of depression.


How SSRIs Work

SSRIs target one specific chemical messenger called serotonin. By preventing its reabsorption, or reuptake, back into the sending neuron, SSRIs maintain higher levels of this chemical between neurons, which reduces feelings of depression. There are less serious side effects with SSRIs when compared with other antidepressants.

Possible Side Effects of SSRIs

Not all of the SSRIs produce all of these side effects, and not everyone who takes these medications experiences all of them. Some people don't have any. Some side effects disappear quickly, while others remain throughout treatment. Elderly patients may be more sensitive to their effects. If you are not sure your symptoms are from the medication, call your doctor.


Bothersome Side Effects:

  • apathy
  • appetite loss
  • body aches
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • nausea
  • nervousness
  • rash
  • sexual dysfunction
  • stomach upset
  • sweating
  • tingling
  • tiredness
  • tremors
  • weakness

More Serious Side Effects:

  • chest pain
  • palpitations or irregular heartbeat
  • vision disturbances


Possible Drug Interactions With SSRIs

Use caution when taking SSRIs with other drugs to help you avoid unnecessary side effects. Tell your doctor about all other drugs you are taking - it's even a good idea to let your doctor see your other prescription bottles. Not all drugs in the categories listed below will react with SSRIs - your doctor is the best judge.


Drugs to Avoid When You Take an SSRI Before you start taking an SSRI, make sure you tell your doctor if you take any drugs from this list.

  • alcohol
  • allergy/cold medications
  • antidepressants (other)
  • antidiabetic medications
  • antipsychotic medications
  • asthma medications
  • blood pressure medications
  • detoxification medications (for drug abuse)
  • heart medications
  • L-tryptophan
  • migraine medications
  • seizure medications
  • theophylline
  • tranquilizers
  • tremor medications
  • warfarin (a blood thinner)