How to Ask a Doctor for Antidepressants

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When you’re depressed, seemingly small tasks or activities like brushing your teeth, cooking your favorite carbonara or grabbing after-work drinks can feel like an enormous hurdle. And mustering the strength — and vulnerability — to ask for help in your darkest moments can feel nearly impossible. 

Whether you’ve been marinating in a two-week funk or have been struggling with severe depression for years, you are not alone. Worldwide, nearly 300 million adults suffer from this mental health disorder.

Fortunately, there are coping strategies and treatment plans that can help make living with this disease feel less debilitating. Along with mental health resources like talk therapy, antidepressant medication is one of the most effective treatments healthcare providers recommend.

But how do you get it? What kind of antidepressant is right for you? And how do these prescription drugs work? We’ll unpack these questions and more below.

How to Get Prescribed Antidepressants

While not as quick as adding a pair of shoes to your online shopping cart, getting prescribed antidepressants isn’t as difficult as you might think. But to get these meds, you do need to have a prescription from a healthcare provider.

There are a few ways to go about this: 

  • Talk to your primary care provider. Based on your symptoms (and any other coexisting medical conditions you might have), a primary care provider (PCP) can direct you to the right kind of medication. In addition to medication, your PCP may also recommend other forms of treatment, like group therapy or psychotherapy.

  • Get a referral from a therapist or psychiatrist. A therapist cannot prescribe depression medication, but a psychiatrist or a psychiatric nurse can. Making an appointment with a therapist is a good starting point because they can provide coping strategies based on your symptoms of depression in addition to connecting you with a psychiatrist.

  • Utilize online telehealth platforms. If you don’t feel like making the trip to the doctor’s office (understandable!), you can also get antidepressants online, along with support through telehealth primary care platforms like Hers. 

Lastly, over-the-counter alternatives might offer benefits when taken with prescription antidepressants.

A handful of the most popular ones include: 

  • St. John’s wort

  • Omega-3 fatty acids

  • 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan)

  • SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine)

While some research speaks to the effectiveness of the above supplements, it’s important to point out that there’s still uncertainty regarding factors like taking the correct doses and how those doses interact with other medications.

Some experts are against using OTC supplements because active ingredients vary by brand and individual batches, delivering unpredictable results.

If you decide to dip your feet into the over-the-counter antidepressant alternative pond, it’s worth saying this: OTC antidepressants aren’t technically antidepressants, and they’re not a replacement for seeking professional help.

When in doubt, always talk to a healthcare provider.

How to Ask a Doctor for Antidepressants

It’s totally normal to get down in the dumps, especially when you’re going through a rough patch, like a breakup or a job loss. But when those feelings become more intense and prolonged, you might start to wonder if you need antidepressants.

Antidepressants are most commonly prescribed for people who have major depressive disorder (MDD). MDD is described as feeling depressed, moody or sad all, every day, for at least two weeks.

For many, the first step in talking about mental health struggles begins with a primary care provider. While you might associate your PCP as that person who gives you your annual physical or writes a prescription when you get a gnarly sinus infection, they can actually be a great first stop on the train toward treatment. 

To make a diagnosis, a healthcare professional may ask you if you’re experiencing symptoms of MDD, such as:

  • Sleep disruption

  • Weight gain or weight loss

  • Trouble making decisions

  • Feelings of worthlessness

  • Suicidal thoughts or frequent thoughts about death

  • Decreased energy, fatigue or feeling “slowed down”

Depression enters some people’s lives in waves depending on life circumstances. For others, the mental health condition might feel like a more permanent fixture — like a bad roommate who just won’t move out.

Your healthcare provider will likely want to know how long you’ve been experiencing these symptoms, their severity and how your symptoms are presented before making an official diagnosis.

(RelatedDepression Medications: A Complete Guide)

Common Types of Antidepressants Prescribed

When people talk about antidepressants, it may seem like they’re referring to one kind of pill that magically works for everyone. While that would definitely make things more convenient, it’s simply not the case.

The reality is, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. There are multiple types of antidepressants, and each person responds to them differently.

How long a person takes an antidepressant varies. Some people may need antidepressants for a relatively short period (like while grieving the loss of a loved one), or they might need medication long-term, if the depression is chronic.

 

These are the most common antidepressants prescribed to patients:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)

  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)

  • Bupropion

Let’s get to know each one better. 

SSRIs

The most commonly prescribed SSRIs include: 

  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

  • Paroxetine (Paxil) 

  • Citalopram (Celexa)

SSRIs (short for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) boost your serotonin levels. Many healthcare professionals consider them a first line of treatment for major depressive disorder as well as anxiety disorders.

SNRIs

The most commonly prescribed SNRIs are: 

  • Venlafaxine (Effexor XR)

  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)

  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

  • Milnacipran (Savella)

  • Levomilnacipran (Fetzima)

SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are also responsible for increasing serotonin levels. They double up by targeting another neurotransmitter called norepinephrine.

Norepinephrine is like the PTA mom who has her hands full: She helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle, stimulates your cardiovascular system and is involved in your body’s fight-or-flight response, among other tasks.

Low levels of norepinephrine are linked to symptoms like lethargy and poor concentration. By targeting both serotonin and norepinephrine, SNRI medication can be effective in treating anxiety and depression.

(RelatedDo Over-the-Counter Antidepressants Actually Work?)

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic antidepressants (or TCAs) are a type of antidepressant developed in the 20th century. They’re among some of the first prescription medications to be approved by the FDA.

Lots of people still use TCAs, though they’ve largely been replaced with other medications, like SSRIs and SNRIs. However, if you’re experiencing depression and those aforementioned meds aren’t cutting it, your healthcare provider might recommend TCAs as an alternative.

For more details on how these drugs work and what side effects to expect, check out our tricyclic antidepressants guide.

Bupropion

Bupropion is another antidepressant used for the treatment of depression as well as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s sold under the brand names: 

  • Wellbutrin

  • Wellbutrin SR

  • Wellbutrin XL

  • Aplenzin

  • Forfivo XL (for major depressive disorder)

Bupropion belongs to a group of medications known as aminoketones. It impacts the way your body uses neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine to help regulate your moods. People with depression may have lower dopamine and norepinephrine levels, and bupropion works by increasing them.

You might be surprised to learn that bupropion is also commonly used as a smoking cessation medication (sold under the brand name Zyban). Research shows it can help reduce tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms in ex-smokers. So if you hear someone say they’re taking Wellbutrin to kick their smoking habit, this is what they’re referring to.

Unlike other antidepressants, bupropion is known to cause fewer and less severe adverse symptoms, like drowsiness, weight loss, weight gain and arousal dysfunction. 

It’s worth noting that many of these common antidepressants don’t work instantly, and it may take some time for your body to adjust. Our full antidepressants list goes over additional medication options, as well as more in-depth information on how they work.

Getting Antidepressants for Your Mental Health

Everyone’s mental health journey looks different. Your personal road to recovery may include antidepressants, and that’s perfectly normal.

But if you start to feel overwhelmed, remember:

  • A healthcare provider can help. In order to get antidepressants, you first need a prescription. A healthcare professional can ask you about your symptoms to determine which antidepressant is right for you.

  • There are many types of antidepressants. There’s no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to medication. What works for someone else may not work for you, and vice versa.

  • You have other support. Support can look like leaning on loved ones, connecting with friends or spending time with a pet. It can also look like mental health services or resources, be it online therapy or anonymous support groups. The important thing is finding a system that works for you. 

Seeking help for your depression can be scary, but your mental health is worth fighting for. Get started today.

This article originally appeared on Forhers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Weight Loss Medications: Are They Actually Effective?

Weight Loss Medications: Are They Actually Effective?

It’s common knowledge that managing your weight keeps you healthy now and as you get older. In fact, obesity contributes to several health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

Not only was the prevalence of obesity in U.S. adults nearly 42 percent in 2017, but the estimated medical costs for adults with obesity were almost $2,000 more each year than for adults who do not have obesity .

Those who have a body mass index (BMI, or the measurement of fat based on height and weight) between 25 and 30 are considered overweight, while those with a BMI over 30 are considered to have obesity.

You’ve probably heard of a few weight loss medications, or at least their brand names, like Ozempic® and Wegovy®. However, there are several other prescription drugs available that are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and frequently prescribed off-label for weight loss.

Healthcare providers may prescribe these medications to someone who has obesity or is overweight with a weight-related health problem like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.

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You’re probably familiar with one of semaglutide’s brand names, Ozempic — other brand names for this drug include Wegovy and Rybelsus®.

Ozempic is approved by the FDA to treat type 2 diabetes and may be prescribed off-label for weight loss, in combination with lifestyle changes like diet and exercise or with other diabetes medications like insulin or metformin.

Wegovy, meanwhile, is a prescription medication approved for use for weight loss in people who have obesity or who are overweight.

Ozempic and Wegovy are in a class of medication called GLP-1 receptor agonists, which mimic the hormone glucagon-like peptide-1 and target areas of the brain that regulate appetite.

Ozempic was approved by the FDA in 2017, while Wegovy was granted approval to pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk more recently, in 2021.

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Although only approved by the FDA to treat diabetes, metformin is often used off-label for weight loss, as well as gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy) and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

It isn’t exactly clear how metformin helps people lose weight, but researchers think the drug works as an appetite suppressant. Similarly to Ozempic, metformin may increase how much GLP-1 hormone your body makes. This can send a signal to your brain that you’re full, which means you eat fewer calories.

Read our blog to learn about Ozempic vs. Metformin for weight loss.


(Related: Metformin For Weight Loss: Does It Work?)

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If you’ve dealt with depression or looked into medication to quit smoking, bupropion may sound familiar to you.

For weight loss, it can be combined with the drug naltrexone, which is used to treat alcohol and drug dependence, to curb your hunger or make you feel fuller sooner. Together, these medications work on two areas of the brain, the hunger center and the reward system, to reduce appetite and help control cravings.

Along with a reduced calorie diet and exercise plan, naltrexone-bupropion can also help keep excess weight off.

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Phentermine-topiramate is actually two separate medications that are combined in Qsymia, but are offered separately in other applications. 

While phentermine is considered an anorectic and topiramate is an anticonvulsant, both help with appetite suppression.

Topiramate offers the added benefit of helping you feel fuller longer after you eat.

When used specifically with a healthy exercise regimen and a reduced calorie diet, these medications — either together or separately — have been shown to help people lose weight and keep it off.

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Orlistat, which belongs to a class of medications known as lipase inhibitors, reduces the amount of fat your body absorbs from the food you eat.

Orlistat is used for weight loss in conjunction with exercise and a reduced-calorie diet, as well as after weight loss to help people keep from gaining back that weight.

While the brand name Xenical requires a prescription, another brand called Alli is available in a lower dosage without one.

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Like Ozempic and Wegovy, liraglutide is an injected weight loss medication. It works as a GLP-1 receptor agonist to suppress appetite, similarly to semaglutide.

Also available under the brand name Victoza at a lower dose, this drug is FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes.

(Related: Weight Loss Injections: Are They Safe?)

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These weight loss drugs are all available with a prescription from a healthcare professional, but how effective are they really?

  • One study found that when people without diabetes took a weekly semaglutide injection they had a higher average weight loss — almost a 15 percent average decrease in weight — than people who took a placebo.

  • Metformin has also demonstrated clinically significant weight loss. A 2020 meta-analysis of 21 trials testing metformin found the drug had a modest impact on lowering BMI, especially for those who are considered to have obesity.

  • smaller study on metformin also found that the average amount of weight lost in 154 patients was between 5.6 and 7 kgs (that’s roughly between 13 and 15 pounds).

It’s also worth mentioning cost here — if you can’t afford the drug you need to take, it’s effectiveness essentially drops to zero percent. That said, there’s some wide price disparity between weight loss drugs. 

For instance, injectibals like Ozempic and Wegovy are generally more expensive than orals like metformin — namely because metformin is a generic medication that’s been around for decades, and Ozempic and Wegovy are newer. 

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Because everyone’s weight loss journey is different, weight loss medications may work slowly for some people and faster for others.

How long you need to take a weight loss prescription drug depends on various factors such as what side effects you experience, how much weight you need to lose, whether the drug helps keep the weight off and more.

Generally, as found in the studies noted above and clinical trials, weight loss will occur within the first few months of using the medication.

Sometimes your health care professional may recommend long-term use of the medication, while other people may be advised to stop the drug if they don’t lose a certain amount of weight after 12 weeks.

If you’re taking a weight loss medication, your healthcare provider will likely suggest that you also increase your physical activity and make healthy lifestyle changes like eating lots of protein and fiber and getting enough sleep. These medications are the most effective when combined with healthy habits.

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Just like any medication, weight loss drugs also come with the possibility of side effects.

When it comes to injectibal drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, there are some broad side effects that apply to all injectibals — like swelling, redness or other discomfort at the injection site — but generally, the side effects profiles of these drugs are similar regardless of delivery method.

The most common side effects of many of these weight loss medications include:

  • Stomach pain or constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Some, like liraglutide and naltrexone-bupropion, may cause an increased heart rate or headaches.

Liraglutide and semaglutide may also increase the risk of pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas). You may also have a higher risk of developing tumors or thyroid cancer when using liraglutide or semaglutide, although these serious side effects are very rare.

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There’s a good chance you’ve heard of weight loss medications like Ozempic or even Wegovy, but there’s also a good chance that the headlines and celebrity-focused articles didn’t answer all your questions. Here’s what you need to know about whether they’re effective.

  • There are several FDA-approved weight loss drugs, including semaglutide, orlistat, phentermine-topiramate, naltrexone-bupropion and liraglutide. Metformin is another common medication used off-label for weight management.

  • These drugs all work slightly differently, but many decrease your appetite and help you stick to a lower-calorie diet. Healthcare providers often recommend they be used alongside regular exercise and healthy habits to maximize sustained weight loss.

  • However, there are side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation and, for the injectibals, injection-side irritation, injury or discomfort. Often, these are mild and serious side effects rarely happen.

  • Cost is also worth considering. Injectibals like Ozempic and Wegovy can generally cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000 per prescription, where a generic like metformin can be had for a fraction of that — usually for under $100 a month.

There’s no one “best weight loss medication” — there’s only what’s best for your particular needs. If you’re curious about medication for weight loss, you can talk to your healthcare provider for medical advice and to explore your options. And if you’re interested in other weight loss treatments online, we can help. 

This article originally appeared on Forhers.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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