How and When Antidepressants Emerged
Antidepressants, one of the most widely used medications globally, are often associated solely with treating depression. However, these drugs prove effective across a spectrum of disorders, including anxiety-phobic disorders, panic attacks, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, and migraines.
How Did Antidepressants Come Into Existence?
In 1951, clinical trials for anti-tuberculosis drugs were conducted in New York. Researchers noticed that patients taking these drugs experienced a mild excitement and increased energy, with some even displaying disruptive behavior. French psychiatrist Jean Delay, in 1952, highlighted the effectiveness of these drugs in treating depression. American psychiatrists Max Lurie and Harry Zaltser later coined the term “antidepressants” in 1953.
Have Modern Antidepressants Evolved from Their Predecessors?
Modern antidepressants distinguish themselves with fewer side effects while maintaining high effectiveness. They target brain receptors more precisely, acting selectively. Unlike older analogs, many newer antidepressants impact not only serotonin receptors but also norepinephrine and dopamine receptors.
What is the Science Behind Antidepressants?
Dispelling the myth of numerous side effects, antidepressants have, on average, a similar side effect profile to the well-known analgesic, aspirin. The side effects of antidepressants stem from their influence on serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine levels, as well as histamine receptors, adrenergic receptors, and cholinergic receptors in the brain.
“It’s a myth that antidepressants have an excessive number of side effects. On average, their side effect profile is comparable to the widely known analgesic, aspirin.” – Dr. Alina Evdokimova, Psychiatrist
Consider serotonin, for instance. While commonly associated with the brain, only 5% of the body’s serotonin resides in the brain. The majority is found in specific nerve cells of the gastrointestinal tract, platelets, and certain immune cells. Antidepressants elevate serotonin not only in the brain but throughout the body, leading to initial side effects like nausea and abdominal discomfort. Serotonin, responsible for mood and nervous system stability, also acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, potentially causing side effects like decreased libido.
Adapting to the altered serotonin levels typically takes about a week for the body.