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Selective Reuptake Inhibitors (SRIs) 101

For many years, the use of medication in the treatment of depression has been one of the most widely discussed topics concerning mental health. Among the various medications used in such treatments, SRIs are some of the oldest and most-studied. “SRI” stands for Selective Reuptake Inhibitor. This title refers to the biological mechanism by which this type of medication is believed to work.

Method of Action

SRIs are some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressant medications. Their method of action has been extensively researched and is well understood. SRIs help to alleviate depression by altering the way the human brain processes certain substances called neurotransmitters. Chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine are produced by the brain to control mood and emotional states, among other things. When these neurotransmitters have completed their task, they are reabsorbed by reuptake pumps. This is where SRIs come into the picture.

SRIs build up inside the body until they begin to block the reuptake pumps assigned to a particular neurotransmitter. When blocked, the pumps can no longer properly reabsorb these mood-altering chemicals. As a result, the depressed patient taking the medication will see a gradual reduction in their depressive symptoms. Physicians assert that depressed persons are more likely to produce lower amounts of beneficial neurotransmitters. When the reuptake cycle is interrupted, the healthful chemicals will build up in the body until a level necessary for positive emotional states is reached.

Side Effects

As with virtually all medications, Selective Reuptake Inhibitors can cause unpleasant or harmful side effects. Because these medications alter the brain chemistry of the person taking them, persistent or troublesome side effects can manifest even if the person is taking a standard dosage. Although SRIs have less potential for causing side effects than older antidepressants, they can still cause problems for some patients.

Common side effects can range from temporary or intermittent headaches to persistent, frequently reoccuring insomnia. Every person responds to these medications in a different way and each person can exhibit a unique set of side effects. Nausea, decreased appetite and sexual dysfunction are also commonly reported side effects of SRI treatment. Essentially, any symptom that develops after beginning an antidepressant treatment regimen that is unusual may be a side effect of the medication. All potential side effects should be reported to a physician. If side effects persist or worsen, the patient should consult their doctor and possibly consider switching to another medication.

Never take any medication without consulting your doctor first.


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