Types, times and more

It takes time for an antidepressant to work. But some medications relieve your symptoms faster than others.

Waiting for the drugs to work can be difficult. And while you have to try various options that don’t provide relief, finding a drug that improves your symptoms can take a lot of time and effort.

Other options, such as ketamine and newer antidepressants, can help provide faster relief, reducing symptoms within days instead of weeks.

With the most common antidepressants, people usually start to feel the antidepressant effects after 1 to 2 weeks to take the medicine.

According to a revision 2008, you may notice the effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) after one week of use, with symptoms continuing to improve for at least 6 weeks. The time frame varies depending on each person’s situation.

Common antidepressants include:

Although these antidepressants work for many people, some other drug options are faster acting and may be helpful when a person does not respond to other antidepressants (treatment-resistant depression) or needs immediate relief to ensure their security.


Ketamine is a drug originally used for anesthesia and pain relief, but medical professionals also use it to help people with treatment-resistant depression.

Unlike other antidepressants, ketamine can improve symptoms of depression in just a few hours. A clinical trial 2018 found that intravenous ketamine significantly and rapidly reduced suicidal ideation in people with depression.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a drug derived from ketamine called esketamine in 2019 for treatment-resistant depression. Esketamine comes in the form of a nasal spray.

Esketamine belongs to a new class of antidepressants called NOTMethyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor blockers.

By blocking brain NMDA receptors, esketamine (and other NDMA receptor blockers) stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which helps create new neural connections. experts believe that stimulating new brain connections can improve symptoms of depression.

A period of 4 weeks 2015 study of 30 people found that treatment involving ketamine and an SSRI (escitalopram) was well tolerated and relieved symptoms of severe depression, compared with those taking only the SSRI.

Ketamine and ketamine-derived products have potential side effects, including:

  • sedation
  • dissociation
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • fear of heights
  • anxiety
  • increased blood pressure
  • vomiting

Due to the risk of serious side effects, a healthcare professional will need to monitor you for at least 2 hours after taking your first dose. And while the prescription nasal spray is easy to administer, you’ll need to take it in a doctor’s office, not at home.

The FDA warns that esketamine (brand name Spravato) can cause dissociation and sedation. There is also a risk of abuse, so it is listed as a Schedule 3 drug on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) list of controlled substances.

Other fast-acting drugs

Although esketamine is the only fast-acting antidepressant approved by the FDA, research is ongoing to find new depression medications that provide faster relief than traditional options.

A clinical trial 2021 of a drug called zuranolone found that the drug significantly reduced symptoms in people with postpartum depression compared to the control group.

The FDA approved another drug called brexanolone in 2019, also for postpartum depression. Brexanolone is given by infusion, unlike zuranolone, an oral medication.

Some antidepressant medications can also help treat anxiety symptoms quickly. Yet they may not have the same effect on symptoms of depression.

For example, a 2019 placebo-controlled trial found that sertraline, a type of SSRI drug, marginally improved symptoms of depression in 12 weeks, but reduced anxiety in half the time.

The gold standard treatment for depression involves therapy, medication, or both. But not everyone has access to treatment. It’s worth checking out affordable treatment options and learning how to deal with symptoms on a daily basis.

You might consider trying these adaptation tips:

  • Give yourself quality time. Whether it’s relaxing with your favorite book or soaking in a bubble bath after a long day, setting aside time to pamper yourself can help ease your mind.
  • Go for a walk. Being outdoors and exposing yourself to the sun can help boost vitamin D levels and improve your mood.
  • do something active. It can be hard to find the energy to move when you’re feeling down, but even a short burst of exercise can release feel-good endorphins.
  • call a friend. If talking on the phone isn’t appealing, send a text message or have a video meeting to make up for lost time. Depression can make you feel isolated, so setting aside time to be with others, whether online or in person, can help you feel less alone.

Looking for more advice? You can check out Psych Central’s article on how to feel better fast when you have depression.

Whether you’re trying a new depression medication for the first time or are curious about other options, finding the right antidepressant can take some time.

Learning about the options and talking with a doctor can help you feel better equipped to choose an antidepressant that’s right for you.

And while medications are often an important part of treating depression, therapy and self-care strategies are also valuable tools to consider.

Are you considering telling someone about your symptoms of depression, but don’t know where to start? Consider checking out Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource for more information.

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