Antidepressants: Does it take time before they work?

by Susan Klatz Beal

Created on: February 22, 2009
As someone who has suffered from clinical major depression for many years, I’ve tried many different antidepressants. The manner in which different classes of antidepressants varies, and they work on different parts of the brain. The one thing that seems to hold true of all antidepressants, insofar as I have experienced, is that they all take time to work.
Most antidepressants start to work right away, but in order to be effective, they need to build up to a therapeutic level in the blood stream. That typically takes anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. Once the drug reaches the therapeutic level, it will still take a while longer for it to become optimally effective.
Whenever I have tried a new antidepressant, I’ve always been advised that the only way to determine how effective the drug is, or how well it is working is to remain on the drug for at least three months. The reason for using three months as the bench mark is because the drug may not be optimally effective if the patient isn’t willing to give the drug some time beyond the point at which it reaches the therapeutic level to actually begin to do its work.
There have been many times when I’ve had to wait for many drugs to take effect, I know all too well how frustrating this can be. The reality is that depression doesn’t develop overnight. Doctor’s don’t make a diagnosis of depression on someone who has been out of sorts, bummed out or even blue for a mere few days or a week. Most patients aren’t so quick to run to a doctor either. To read more, click here.