Establish the need, what to switch to, and the strategy
Before you are able to monitor an antidepressant switch for the treatment of depression, you’ll need to establish the need for the switch, the medicine to switch to, and the strategy you’re following.
Generally, people should be reviewed within 2 weeks after starting the new antidepressant for the treatment of depression. People with suicide risk or aged 18 to 25 should be reviewed 1 week after starting the new antidepressant, and then again as often as needed (but no later than 4 weeks after initiation).
Ensure the person knows the monitoring they can expect after the switch, by whom, and when. Advise people at their review appointment on aspects such as the:
- time required for treatment to be effective—it may take 1 to 2 weeks before the benefits of the treatment are felt. If no benefit is seen after 4 to 6 weeks the medicine will need to be reviewed.
- possibility of side-effects and that discontinuation symptoms may also be associated with the switch
- risks of serotonin syndrome and what to look out for
- risk of relapse, and that medication may be needed for 6 months or longer (if relapse risk is higher) even after remission of symptoms
- non-addictive nature of antidepressants
- management of missed or extra doses and the risks associated with stopping an antidepressant
- availability of self-help groups, and how and from whom to seek urgent support
People may experience discontinuation symptoms from abruptly stopping their antidepressant treatment. Gradual withdrawal may minimise risk and the person’s symptoms should guide the speed of the switch.
Discontinuation symptoms may include:
- trouble sleeping
- stomach problems
- feeling as if there’s an electric shock in your head
- feeling irritable, anxious or confused
Health Education England provides a good overview of serotonin syndrome, an uncommon but potentially serious side effect of most antidepressants. Concomitant or sequential use of antidepressants can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome as most antidepressants increase serotonin levels in the brain.
Can be mild to life-threatening and include:
- autonomic dysfunction (tachycardia, blood pressure changes, hyperthermia, sweating, shivering and diarrhoea)
- neuromuscular hyperactivity (tremor, rigidity, myoclonus, clonus and hyperreflexia)
- altered mental state (agitation, confusion, mania and coma)
We have advice on how to switch between individual antidepressants of different types. Browse our collection below.
- Updated time required for treatment to be effective.