Patient Education: Depression: Beating the Blues

Author: Joseph P. Vande Griend, PharmD, BCPS


Dr. Vande Griend is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver School of Pharmacy, Aurora, Colorado.


Everyone has felt down in the dumps at some point in life. For patients with depression, being sad or depressed does not go away quickly. It can last for a few weeks or longer. Patients with depression also can lose interest in areas of life they used to enjoy. They may have gained weight or lost weight. Other symptoms include trouble sleeping, being tired a lot, feeling guilty or worthless, and difficulty with focus. At worst, patients with depression may want to end their lives.

People with depression can have a poor quality of life. They may no longer be interested in their family, their job, or hobbies they used to enjoy. Depression also can affect a patient's overall health. A patient with depression and heart disease is likely to have more problems with their heart.

Depression affects both men and women. Women are almost twice as likely to be depressed. It can also affect children. It is most common, however, in patients 25 to 50 years old. Depression also can run in families. It is more common in patients living in a nursing home, hospitalized patients, and patients with many health problems.

What You Can Do if You Feel Depressed

If you have symptoms related to depression, talk to someone. Talk to your pharmacist, your regular doctor, or a family member or good friend. If you are depressed, visit your doctor. Feelings of depression that do not go away are not normal. Depression also is not a normal part of getting older. People who are depressed are not alone. In fact, nearly 1 of 10 people in the United States will become depressed at some point in their lives.

Table

Table

 

Treating Depression

Depression is most often treated with medication. Talking to a therapist can also be useful. Taking a medication and talking to a therapist will provide the most benefit. Many different medications are used to treat depression. Medications used today for depression are effective. They have few side effects or drug interactions.

Old medications for depression had many drug interactions and side effects. One old class of depression medication was not very safe. Patients taking this drug could not eat aged cheeses, sauerkraut, or cured meat, and could not drink draft beer. Another older class of medication for depression has many side effects. These drugs cause constipation, drowsiness, dry eyes, and weight gain. These drugs also are not safe with certain heart conditions.

New depression medications have fewer side effects. They also can be taken safely with many other drugs. They treat depression as effectively as the old drugs. The new drugs are used first, instead of the old drugs for depression. The most common new medications are listed in the Table. Several are available in generic form at a lower cost.

Depression can affect a person's quality of life. It can make you sad, and make you lose interest in things you enjoy. Treatment for depression is available. Medication is most commonly used. It is most effective at treating depression when a patient understands the therapy and uses it correctly. When treated with medication for depression, be patient. Take your medication as your doctor tells you, and visit your doctor and pharmacist often. Be prepared for changes in your medication and lifelong treatment. Following this advice can help you beat the blues.

4 Tips for treating depression with medication

Medication for the treatment of depression can make the condition go away. Depression is most commonly treated with medication. Patients must understand their medication and how to use it correctly. This will help them feel better faster. The following information can help patients get the most from their medication:

1. It takes time for depression medication to work.
Depression medication takes at least 4 weeks to work. Many patients often stop the medication because they think it is not working, but they have not yet given it a chance to work. If you think the drug is not working, do not stop it. Continue taking the medication the way your doctor has instructed. If you feel worse with the medication, call your doctor. It can take up to 4 months for a depression medication to work best. Give the medication time to work. It can make you feel better over time.

2. See your doctor or pharmacist regularly.
Patients with depression are often jittery, anxious, or uneasy. Taking a medication to treat depression can make this worse at first. This will go away. If you feel really bad taking the medication, call your doctor. You can also talk with your pharmacist. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before stopping a medication. They may give you a lower dose or try a different medication. They will make sure you have a good treatment for your depression. Your doctor and pharmacist also understand depression. Talking to them about your depression can make you feel better. They will help you get the most from any treatment.

3. Different medications may be needed to treat your depression.
Investigators did a large study on medication for the treatment of depression. In the study, every patient started on citalopram (see Table above). This medication is commonly used. It has few side effects and is easy to tolerate.

Patients in the study took this drug for 3 months. One of 3 patients no longer had depression after 3 months. Two thirds of patients required a change in medication. For some, the depression medication was switched. For others, another depression medication was added to citalopram.

This study showed that depression is not an easy fix. Very few people will no longer have depression after one medication. Your doctor will often need to change your medication. Finding the right medication for you may take time. Do not get frustrated, but continue to see your doctor or pharmacist. They can help find the medication that is best for you.

4. Depression may be a lifelong disease.
Depression often goes away but then comes back again. This is common. If depression is treated well the first time, it is less likely to come back. To prevent future depression, it is important to take your medication for as long as your doctor tells you. Even if you feel better, continue your medication until you are told to stop. You may need to take your depression medication for 2 to 3 years after you feel better. Some people will need to take depression medication for the rest of their lives. If you think you should stop, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They will be able to explain to you how long you need the treatment.