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How does an SSRI work?
Q: How does an SSRI work? I understand it means selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, but what does that mean? Is the result an increase or decrease of serotonin in your brain? Do depression/anxiety/panic disorders occur from too much or not enough serotonin in your brain?

A: This is a somewhat complex process to try to describe in a short email, but I'll give it a try. There are specific serotonin axons in the brain which, amongst other things, release serotonin into the space between the axons and neurons. The released serotonin hangs out in this 'inter-synaptic gap', some fitting into specific receptors on other neurons triggering an electro-chemical message of sorts to be sent through the brain. Other serotonin molecules (there are far more molecules released than actually find a receptor to trigger) will be grabbed by 'serotonin reuptake transporters' on the serotonin axons like they one they were originally released from. Still other serotonin molecules are destroyed by MAO enzymes in the inter-synaptic gap (this is the process which is inhibited by MAOIs). This is all a complex inter-related process of regulating the amount of serotonin that is floating about in the inter-synaptic gap...and thereby the number of serotonin receptors which are being triggered.

SSRIs block the reuptake transporters so they are temporarily no longer capable of moving serotonin out of the inter-synaptic gap and back into the axon. Functionally what this does is to increase the amount of serotonin in the inter-synaptic gap...and therefore it also increases the number of serotonin receptors which are being triggered.

Depression, anxiety, and panic disorders are not completely understood...but increasing the amount of serotonin being processed by the brain seems to help some people. It seems to be more a process of trying to _change_ the brain chemistry in hopes that it will resolve functional problems.

Hope this helps.



Asked By : Ben
Answered By : erowid
Published Date : 3 / 12 / 2000
Last Edited Date : 3 / 12 / 2000
Question ID : 136

Categories: [ SSRIs ]

Ask Erowid v1.7 - Jul, 2005

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