Depression is not just a passing feeling of sadness or a sign of weakness of character.

It is a disorder that causes a chemical imbalance in your brain which brings a deep feeling of despair that can affect every aspect of your life. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 8% of Canadians will experience an episode of depression at some point in their lives.

The Goal: Getting You Back On Your Feet

The goal of treatment is to help you get over the episode of depression. Because you have your own symptoms of depression and your body reacts to medication in its own way, the drug, its dose and the duration of therapy need to be tailored to your specific needs.

Start Off On The Right Foot

It is important to have realistic expectations when it comes to how fast your treatment will take effect. In most cases, it takes from two to eight weeks for you to feel better. You may find that unwanted side effects appear more rapidly than the desired effects, but they’ll usually settle down over time.

To reduce the risk of adverse side effects, you will likely begin taking the antidepressant in small doses, so as to allow your body to adjust to it. Your doctor and pharmacist will work together to establish a dose increase schedule that is suited for you. The aim is to reach an “optimal” dose, while making adjustment as needed. If you’re not sure how to take your medication, ask your pharmacist.

You’ll need to be patient, to persevere, and—unless instructed otherwise by your doctor or pharmacist—to take your medication as prescribed.

Adjusting As Needed

Your pharmacist will monitor your treatment in collaboration with you and your doctor. If he or she concludes that your medication has had little or no impact on your symptoms after a few weeks at the optimal dose, he or she may recommend adjustments such as increasing the dose, adding a second medication to enhance the effect of the first, or simply switching to a different treatment.

If at any point in your treatment you experience side effects, talk to your pharmacist right away. Do not change your medication dose on your own without talking to a healthcare practitioner first. Most unwanted side effects are temporary and will go away on their own as your body adjusts to the treatment. Your pharmacist can provide advice on measures to help mitigate unwanted side effects.

Treatment Duration: Staying On Course

Once you feel better, it will be important to continue taking your medication to avoid a relapse. Medical experts recommend continuing treatment for at least six months. In some circumstances your doctor may advise you to continue your treatment for a longer period, for example if this is not your first episode of depression or if your depression is particularly severe.

When it’s time to discontinue your treatment, your doctor or pharmacist will give you precise instructions on how to proceed. Abruptly stopping the medication may cause unwanted effects and should not be attempted on your own. Your pharmacist will provide guidance to slowly and safely reduce the dose to discontinue the medication.

Services to Make Your Life Easier

Your pharmacist needs to ensure that all your medications are compatible with your antidepressant, including over-the-counter and natural health products. For this reason, you should always ask his or her advice before using such products.

If you are taking more than one medication, you can ask the team at your pharmacy to make sure your antidepressant renewal date coincides with your other medications. You may ask them to synchronize the prescription renewals of all the other members of your family.