Antidepressants: Chemical | Organic composition

Last modified: Thursday, 25. December 2008 - 5:42 am


The antidepressants available in the United States are classified by either their chemical structure (e.g., the tricyclics, TCAs) or their actions on neurotransmitters (e.g., SSRIs and MAOIs) or simply as “other” (e.g., Wellbutrin). In the future, the classification of the antidepressants may become more confusing as new drugs are developed that are neither TCAs, SSRIs, or MAOIs.

A variety of substances (and more are being found each day) with differing chemical structures have antidepressant abilities. However, no group is known to be more effective than the others.

The tricyclic antidepressants have a three-ring nucleus and are norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake inhibitors. They have been used for decades. Trade names included in this group of drugs as of 2002 are: Etrafon, Limbitrol, Norpramin, Sinequan, Surmontil, and Vivactil.

The heterocyclic antidepressants were introduced between 1980 and 1996. They consist of an intertwined circular structure called benzene rings. Included among these are amoxapine and maprotiline, which have a similar structure to the tricyclics. Trazodone and bupropion are in this group but do not have this similar structure. These drugs do not have stronger potency than the earlier drugs. Newer drugs introduced since the 1990s include venlafaxine and mirtazapine.

The older generation of drugs are less desirable than the new selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, because they have many actions in the body other than their anti-depressant effect. Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride) is among this group. Other trade names in this group are Celexa, Paxil, and Zoloft.

The herb St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) has a number of constituent parts, including hyperforin, which is currently being studied as the responsible constituent for the antidepressant action. The herb contains at least ten compounds that can have an unpredictable effect on the consumer.


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