What are Anti-Depressants?
Antidepressants are drugs that can treat pain or emotional conditions by adjusting levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin and norepinephrine. They have the ability of increasing natural stores of the neurotransmitters resulting in improved well-being and relaxation, enabling pain control for people with chronic pain conditions that do not completely respond to the standard treatments.
Although several categories of antidepressants exist, the tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are most commonly used for the treatment of chronic pain. In low doses, these medicines are effective at relieving pain, while higher doses have a more typical antidepressant effect. Amitriptyline (Elavil) is the antidepressant most commonly prescribed from this group, simply because it has been studied the most thoroughly. Other tricyclic antidepressants used for pain control include Imipramine (Tofranil), Nortriptyline (Pamelor), and Desipramine (Norpramin).
Two newer forms of antidepressants, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), have fewer side effects than tricyclic antidepressants and are sometimes used to treat chronic pain. SSRIs include such drugs as paroxetine (Paxil) and fluoxetine (Prozac). People who have Chronic Painmay feel better while taking SSRIs, but this effect is believed to result more from the easing of accompanying depressive symptoms rather than from actual pain relief.
Drugs, such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) are SNRIs, appear to be more effective than SSRIs at pain control, particularly neuropathic pain caused by damaged nerves. Cymbalta also has an FDA indication for treating diabetic peripheral neuropathy. SSRIs and SNRIs are known to have fewer side effects than tricyclic antidepressants, and therefore, may be better treatment options for chronic neuropathic pain.
Conditions Treated with Anti-Depressants
Talk with your doctor about a prescription for antidepressants that could work with your pain condition.
To reduce or prevent side effects, usually the patient will be started on a low dose and slowly increased. Most people are able to take tricyclic antidepressants, particularly in low doses, with only mild side effects. The doses that are effective for pain are typically lower than the doses used for depression.
Tricyclic antidepressants seem to work best for the burning or searing pain commonly experienced with nerve damage, Tricyclic antidepressants do not cause dependence or addiction, and they are safe to take for extended periods of time.
Antidepressants may be an appropriate solution for your pain condition. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and the side effects before starting the medication.