Migraine Treatment with Antidepressants: an introduction
Some drugs that treat depression, called antidepressants, have been found to be effective in preventing migraines.
There are different types of antidepressants, including tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). Tricyclic antidepressants, particularly Elavil (generic name amitriptyline), have been studied the most in preventing migraines. Other antidepressants have been studied, but haven’t been shown to have the same level of effectiveness.
- Elavil for migraine
How Antidepressants work to prevent migraines
The way antidepressants work to prevent migraines isn’t known. Because neurotransmitters in the brain are associated with migraine attacks, it is believed that antidepressants impact their activity which might prevent migraines.
Often people who have migraines also suffer from depression, therefore they benefit from the treatment of the depression and migraine with the same medication. Antidepressants for treating migraine are particularly helpful people who also suffer from stress, anxiety, epilepsy and sleep problems. Also, some doctors combine antidepressants with Beta Blockers to prevent migraines.
Side effects of antidepressants
This is a partial list of some of the side effects associated with antidepressants:
- Disturbances in heart rhythm
- Increased sensitivity to the sunlight
- Drowsiness, therefore you shouldn’t drive, operate heavy machinery or perform dangerous activities until you know how the antidepressant will effect you
- Dry mouth
- Painful urination
- Sexual dysfunction
- Weight gain
Serious side effects of antidepressants
Antidepressants come with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s strongest warning that the use of antidepressants has been associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children, adolescents and young adults. Tricyclic antidepressants can be fatal in overdose. You should monitor your mental health and if you experience any changes notify your doctor immediately. You and a caregiver should monitor your behavior for new or worsening depression, any thoughts of hurting or killing yourself, any impulsive behavior, anxiety, restlessness, worry, agitation, panic attacks, changes in sleep or aggressive behavior.
Who should not take antidepressants
Antidepressants can have serious interactions with other drugs. Please let your doctor know all other medications you take including oral contraceptives, barbiturates, MAO inhibitors, sleep medicines, antihistamines, pain killers, blood pressure medicines and others.
Antidepressants should not be stopped abruptly. First consult your doctor who will advise you on how to gradually cut down your dose.
Tell your doctor if you have ever had seizures, urinary retention, glaucoma or other chronic eye conditions, a heart or circulatory system disorder, or liver problems.
You should also let your doctor know if you are on thyroid medication and about any other medical conditions you may have.
Your doctor should know about antidepressant use before having surgery, dental treatment, or any diagnostic procedure. Certain medications that may be used in surgery or other procedures may cause a serious reaction with certain antidepressants.
You should also tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or may become pregnant before taking an antidepressant.