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Antidepressants

Explains what antidepressants are, how they work, possible side effects and information about withdrawal.

Why might I want to compare antidepressants?

Understanding more about the different antidepressants available may help you talk to your doctor about what's right for you, including:

  • If you’ve experienced problems with a particular type of antidepressant and want to avoid them. For example, if you’ve had problems with tricyclics and would like change to an SSRI.
  • If the drug's half-life is important to you. For example, if you are concerned about withdrawal effects and would prefer a drug with a longer half-life. For information about what the half-life means and why it matters, see our page explaining the half-life of medication. If you are taking an MAOI antidepressant, see our information explaining why the half-life means something different for certain MAOIs.
  • If you have problems with swallowing, or are unable to take tablets, and need your medication in a different form.
  • If you have any dietary restrictions, such as being vegetarian, or if you are allergic or intolerant to some ingredients.

Remember: drugs don't work the same way for everyone, and it's important to find a medication that works for you. See our page on receiving the right medication for more information.

Antidepressants by generic name and key characteristics

Each of these drugs may be known by several different names, which we have listed below under the Generic name and Trade names (UK) columns. See our page on drug names for more information.

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Generic name

Trade names (UK)

Type of antidepressant

Forms available

Half-life

Dietary considerations

agomelatine

Valdoxan

other

  • tablets

1 to 2 hours

n/a

amitriptyline

n/a

tricyclic

  • tablets
  • liquid

9 to 25 hours

  • tablets may contain lactose

citalopram

Cipramil

SSRI

  • tablets
  • oral drops

around 36 hours

  • tablets contain lactose

clomipramine

n/a

tricyclic

  • capsules

12 to 36 hours

  • contains lactose
  • contains gelatine

dosulepin

Prothiaden, Thaden

tricyclic

  • tablets
  • capsules

around 50 hours (just over 2 days)

  • capsules may contain gelatine

doxepin

Sinepin

tricyclic

  • capsules

3 to –80 hours (1.5 to 3.3 days)

  • contains lactose
  • contains gelatine

duloxetine

Cymbalta

SNRI

  • capsules

8 to 17 hours

  • contains gelatin
  • may contain lactose

escitalopram

Cipralex

SSRI

  • tablets
  • oral drops

around 30 hours

n/a

fluoxetine

Prozac, Prozep, Oxactin

SSRI

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • liquid
  • dispersible tablets

96 to 144 hours (4 to 6 days)

  • capsules contain gelatine

fluvoxamine

Faverin

SSRI

  • tablets

17 to 22 hours

n/a

imipramine

n/a

tricyclic

  • tablets
  • liquid

around 19 hours

  • tablets contain lactose
  • tablets contain gelatine

isocarboxazid

n/a

MAOI

  • tablets

around 36 hours (effects may last 2 to 3 weeks after withdrawal)

  • contains lactose
  • contains gelatine
  • requires food restrictions

lofepramine

Lomont

tricyclic

  • tablets
  • liquid

12 to 24 hours

  • contains lactose

mianserin

n/a

tricyclic-related

  • tablets

6 to 39 hours

n/a

mirtazapine

Zispin

other

  • tablets
  • liquid
  • dispersible tablets

20 to 40 hours

  • tablets contain lactose

moclobemide

Manerix

reversible MAOI

  • tablets

2 to 4 hours

  • contains lactose
  • requires food restrictions

nortriptyline

Allegron

tricyclic

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • liquid

around 36 hours

  • tablets and capsules contain lactose
  • capsules contain gelatine

paroxetine

Seroxat

SSRI

  • tablets
  • liquid

around 24 hours

  • tablets may contain lactose

phenelzine

Nardil

MAOI

  • tablets

11 to 12 hours (effects may last 2 to 3 weeks after withdrawal)

  • requires food restrictions

reboxetine

Edronax

other

  • tablets

around 13 hours

n/a

sertraline

Lustral

SSRI

  • tablets

22 to 36 hours

n/a

tranylcypromine

Parnate

MAOI

  • tablets

about 2 hours (effects may last around 2 weeks after withdrawal)

  • contains gelatine
  • requires food restrictions

trazodone

Molipaxin

tricyclic-related

  • tablets
  • capsules
  • liquid

5 to 13 hours

  • tablets and capsules contain lactose
  • capsules contain gelatine

trimipramine

Surmontil

tricyclic

  • tablets
  • capsules

around 23 hours

  • contains lactose
  • capsules contain gelatine

venlafaxine

Alventa XL, Amphero XL, Depefex XL, Efexor XL, Foraven XL, Majoven XL, Politid XL, Sunveniz XL, Tonpular XL, Venaxx XL, Vencarm XL Venladex XL, Venlablue XL,  Venlalic XL, Venlasoz XL, Vensir XL, Venzip XL, ViePax XL

SNRI

  • tablets
  • capsules

4 to 7 hours

  • may contain lactose
  • may contain gelatine

vortioxetine

Brintellix

other

  • tablets
  • oral drops
around 66 hours  n/a

Comparing antidepressants by type

Comparing antidepressants by half-life

See our page on half-life for information about what this means and why it matters.

Some MAOIs, known as 'irreversible MAOIs', work in a different way to other antidepressants. They cause changes to your brain chemistry which can last for several weeks after you stop taking the medication. This means their effects may last for a few weeks longer than the drug's biological half life.

The irreversible MAOIs included in the list below are isocarboxazid, phenelzine and tranylcypromine.

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Half-life Drug name
1 to 2 hours agomelatine
around 2 hours (effects may last around 2 weeks after withdrawal) tranylcypromine
2 to 4 hours moclobemide
4 to 7 hours  venlafaxine
5 to 13 hours trazodone
6 to 39 hours mianserin
8 to 17 hours  duloxetine
9 to 25 hours amitriptyline
11 to 12 hours (effects may last 2–3 weeks after withdrawal) phenelzine
12 to 24 hours lofepramine
12 to 36 hours  clomipramine
around 13 hours  reboxetine
17 to 22 hours  fluvoxamine
around 19 hours  imipramine
20 to 40 hours  mirtazapine
22 to 36 hours  sertraline
around 23 hours trimipramine
around 24 hours  paroxetine
around 30 hours  escitalopram
33 to 80 hours (1.5 to 3.3 days)  doxepin
around 36 hours  citalopram
around 36 hours (effects may last 2 to 3 weeks after withdrawal) isocarboxazid
around 36 hours  nortriptyline
around 50 hours (just over 2 days) dosulepin
around 66 hours vortioxetine 
96 to 144 hours (4 to 6 days) fluoxetine

 

Comparing antidepressants by dietary considerations

Certain brands of individual drugs may have other dietary restrictions that aren’t listed in the tables below. If you are concerned about this, you can check the Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) included in the box with your medication. This will include a full list of your medication's ingredients. 

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Dietary consideration Drugs this applies to
Contains lactose
Contains gelatin
Requires food restrictions

This information was published in September 2020. We will revise it in 2023.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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