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What We Know About Antidepressants

Antidepressants are prescribed more now than at any other point in the past two decades. In fact, one out of 10 Americans are currently taking antidepressants and there is likely to be many more individuals who need them.

Yet, even with the millions of individuals taking antidepressants, many scientists still aren’t sure what exactly causes depression. After years of research, it has been shown that feel-good neurotransmitters, much like serotonin and dopamine, certainly plays an important part in it all.

Since there is still so much unknown about depression and its variety of factors, most scientists have focused on developing antidepressants that work to control and maintain neurotransmitters that affect an individual’s mood. While they do not work for everyone, they have made a huge difference for several individuals suffering from depression.

But how do antidepressants work?

First, you need to understand what serotonin is. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is associated with the feeling of happiness and wellbeing. Typically, these chemicals will be naturally produced by the brain, but for those with depression, the quantity produced may be lower than average.

Antidepressants, such as SSRIs, block serotonin from being reabsorbed back into the nerve cells that they originate from. This ends up leading to a higher concentration of serotonin within the synaptic cleft, a space in between two communicating cells. It was believed that the extra boost of serotonin improved communication between the nerve cells and helped regulate mood.

However, it has been shown that this is not always the case. 

Recent research indicates that the reason antidepressants often take a few weeks to begin working is because they don’t just improve connectivity between the cells, but also work towards growing and improve branching between the nerve cells within the hippocampus. 

As research continues, scientists hope to improve antidepressants in order to lead to faster and better outcomes for individuals with depression. 

Still, even with improvements to antidepressants, the rising costs of prescription medications could prevent depression suffers from getting the treatment they need.

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