What Is the Difference Between a SSRI & an SNRI?

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SSRI's and SNRI's are two different classes of anti-depressant medications. While SSRI's are the more prescribed of the two, some claim that SNRI's are better in treating major depression, but that the side effects of SNRI's are worse.

What Antidepressants Do

  • There are three primary neurotransmitters in the brain that are most involved with depression, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. When these are low, or not properly balanced, depression may arise. SSRI's and SNRI's address these problems by either increasing the production of a neurotransmitter, or by cutting down the body's natural re-absorption of them.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)

  • Of the three neurotransmitters, SSRI's operate on serotonin. The body naturally decreases serotonin. SSRI's "inhibit" (slow or stop) this "re-uptake" (re-absorption) process.

Serotonin-Norepinephine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI)

  • SNRI's act on two of the neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine. Like the SSRI, the SNRI also affects the body's "re-uptake", of serotonin. In addition, SNRI's decrease the re-uptake of the second neurotransmitter, norepinephrine.

SSRI or SNRI?

  • Serotonin is thought to be the "mood" neurotransmitter. Norepinephrine is believed to be involved with "energy and alertness." Because SNRI's act on norepinephrine, in addition to serotonin, some believe these are more effective in treating depression, although individual patients respond differently to medication, and some feel the side effects of SNRIs are worse than those of SSRIs.

Consult a Professional

  • The best way to determine which is better for you, SSRI or SNRI, or both, is to consult a doctor. In meeting with her, you may even decide that you need a different class of medication altogether, or none at all.

References

Resources

  • Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Beatrice Murch

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