Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor

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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor[1] (SSRIs) are a class of compounds typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and some personality disorders. They are also typically effective and used in treating some cases of insomnia.

SSRIs are believed to increase the extracellular level of the neurotransmitter serotonin by inhibiting its reuptake into the presynaptic cell, increasing the level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft available to bind to the postsynaptic receptor. They have varying degrees of selectivity for the other monoamine transporters, with pure SSRIs having only weak affinity for the noradrenaline and dopamine transporter.

SSRIs are the most widely prescribed antidepressants in many countries.[2]

The efficacy of SSRIs is being disputed. A 2010 meta-analysis indicated that:

"The magnitude of benefit of antidepressant medication compared with placebo ... may be minimal or nonexistent, on average, in patients with mild or moderate symptoms. For patients with very severe depression, the benefit of medications over placebo is substantial."[3]

SSRIs are the first class of psychotropic drugs to be discovered using the process called "rational drug design", a process that starts with an untested hypothesis that affecting the chemical behavior of a specific biological target such as a hormone receptor may have therapeutic value.[2]

The term SSRI is somewhat of a misnomer, invented by the pharmaceutical companies who developed these drugs. Rationally, they should be referred to as SRIs, as dopamine reuptake inhibitors and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are referred to as DRIs and NRIs respectively, regardless of their selectivity.


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