Do antidepressants take 6 to 8 weeks to kick in? In the case of many people, yes. However, for other people that notice a major effect immediately upon taking the medication, it may come as a surprise that the drug is already working when their doctor or psychiatrist told them it would take awhile. Although the drug may not reach its full potential until a month or so into the treatment phase, many people notice that antidepressants affect them within the first few days of treatment.
Keep in mind that everyone’s experience on these drugs is different. Just because one person notices the drug in their body on the first day, does not mean they are having a placebo effect – many doctors do not realize how quickly these medications work for some. If your antidepressant doesn’t work right away, read more about why antidepressants take so long to work.
My personal experience with Paxil CR: Kicked in the first day
When I first started my treatment on Paxil CR 12.5 mg, I noticed the drug kicked in the very first day I took it. I originally had more energy and felt some excitement on Day 1. I noticed a huge boost in mood and energy by day 3. At the time I was age 15 and didn’t really know much about these SSRI drugs or how they worked. I just assumed that if I threw it down the hatch I would become happy and less anxious. By the end of the first week I had transformed from an anxious introvert to a full blown extrovert – this was totally unexpected.
SSRI’s may work way quicker than what your doctor tells you
The odd thing is that my doctor had told me it would take 4 to 6 weeks for this drug to have any kind of an effect. Although there is the possibility of a placebo effect, I didn’t expect to feel anything for awhile. I felt way too good for this to be a placebo and noticed other side effects like increased sweating by the end of the first week. To make a long story short, this drug stopped working after 6 months. The drug did work on the very first day in my case – so don’t assume that just because you are starting an antidepressant it is going to take the full 6 weeks.
Although I don’t have any exact research to support my hypotheses of why antidepressants work quicker in certain people, I do have some ideas that I figured I’d share. In addition to the ideas below, it should be mentioned that researchers recently discovered that an SSRI changes brain connectivity within hours, rather than weeks like most “professionals” originally suspected. This further supports the idea that you are not crazy or abnormal if your drug has an immediate effect.
Antidepressants may work immediately if you fit the following:
1. Physically Fit – If you have a high metabolism and work out frequently, you are going to feel the effects quicker than someone who doesn’t. This is because your body is working to digest and grind up everything that enters it in a quick and efficient way. You don’t have a bunch of waste sitting inside your gut rotting. Therefore when the drug is introduced, it will have a clear channel to work quicker.
2. Higher dose – The higher the dosage of the drug, the quicker you will feel the effects. You may feel a bunch of side effects right away before the antidepressant effect though. In my opinion, it is better to start at a low dose and titrate upwards to a therapeutic level. What may be therapeutic for you may be lower than what is for someone else.
3. Internal Awareness – Are you aware of your body and any internal comfort or discomfort. If you have an internal focus and are aware or hyperaware of your body’s functioning, you will probably notice the medication kicking in before most people. If you have poor internal awareness or recognition of physical symptoms throughout your body, you may not even feel the effects of the drug until it has built up in your system.
4. Hypersensitivity – Certain people are hypersensitive to medications and/or things in general. For example people with high stress or PTSD may be hypersensitive to sounds and bright lights. If you are hypersensitive, it usually stems from being hyperaware of bodily functions. Initially the side effects of the medication may be greatly amplified in your head due to this sensitivity.
5. Eat healthy – If you eat healthy foods, chances are there won’t be a build up of preservatives or junk in your body. A lot of unhealthy foods have additives that can have somewhat of an influence over mental functioning. If you are eating good foods that can be efficiently digested by your body, any foreign substance like a chemical (i.e. medication) will be more noticeable than if your system is already flooded with crap.
6. Drug free – People that do not use any other drugs like marijuana, cigarettes, or other prescriptions will probably notice the effects of an antidepressant sooner because they aren’t flooded with chemicals from other sources. If you take an array of drugs (illicit or not) on a consistent basis, it may be more difficult for you to notice the effects of the antidepressant that you’re taking.
7. Alcohol free – If you aren’t drinking alcohol and there is no outside influence on your nervous system from drinking, the drugs will likely work quicker. Think of being fully detoxified vs. drinking off and on for the past year. The person who stayed clean is going to notice the effects quicker. Alcohol has an impact on your nervous system and the effects can
8. Caffeine free – Caffeine is a stimulant that can influence mental activity as well as our CNS functioning. It is a fairly addicting substance and people can become dependent upon caffeine in their everyday functioning. The fact that it is in your system may cloud your ability to notice what the antidepressants are doing – especially if you are a heavy caffeine drinker. It is a stimulant and can have a significant affect on the nervous system.
9. Never used an SSRI – Someone who has never used an SSRI in the past will likely notice the effects quicker than someone who hasn’t. This goes for other related-medications as well. If you have used an SSRI or SNRI or some form of an antidepressant in the past, you will probably notice the drug in your system much more quickly than someone who hasn’t. This is due to the fact that a foreign substance (i.e. chemical) is entering your body. Your body (and brain) change from a homeostatic state to being under the influence of the drug.
10. Strong reaction (positive or negative) – Depending on your preexisting brain chemistry and nervous system activity, certain medications may induce a strong reaction. You may notice a strong positive reaction or negative reaction within the first few days of taking it. None of these drugs are natural, so altering certain neurotransmitters may feel pretty powerful.
If your antidepressant works immediately
If your antidepressant works right away within the first couple days that you take it, you may be on a fast-acting medication like Paxil or Effexor. These medications tend to work quickly, but end up reaching a plateau within a few months. Following this plateau you may experience a gradual “poop out.” In other words, the medication will eventually stop working. Anyways, it is important to realize that general practitioners and standard medical doctors are fairly uneducated when it comes to mental health medications. Most just follow the literature instead of following people’s actual experiences. This is unfortunate because when a drug kicks in right away, the patient may not know what to expect.
It is more realistic for doctors and psychiatrists to say that a medication should reach it’s peak effectiveness within 4 to 8 weeks – not that it takes that long to work. I’m sure some doctors and psychiatrists are up to date on these medications and how their patients have been affected. Just keep in mind that if your medication works right away, it’s not “all in your head” and you may not be experiencing any type of “placebo” – that just shows you how powerful antidepressants can be.