Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, more commonly known as SSRIs, are antidepressant medications that function by augmenting the levels of serotonin, the mood-enhancing chemical, in the blood. While these medications are effective, they have also been linked to aggressive side effects, including birth defects in infants.

The brand name drug Prozac was the first drug introduced to the U.S. market and to be classified as a SSRI. Prozac entered the medical scene in 1988 and became a brand leader by 2005, as it was then known as one of the most prescribed antidepressant drugs in the country. Today, roughly a dozen different SSRIs are commonly prescribed, including Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac.

SSRIs Used for Treatment

According to WebMD, SSRIs are second-generation antidepressants designed with fewer side effects than first-generation antidepressant medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). SSRIs are used to treat depression as the disease is caused by a disruption or imbalance in certain chemicals in the brain. SSRIs treat depression by increasing the availability of serotonin available in the brain.

While SSRIs are not without side effects, these second-generation antidepressants are typically used because they have different and less severe side effects than their predecessors. Likewise, SSRIs are typically effective at relieving depression for most individuals who take them. These drugs are even usually helpful to individuals with anxiety or anxiety disorders.

There are some different varieties of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The most commonly prescribed SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, Pexeva, and Zoloft. Paxil CR is a commonly used SSRI that delivers are controlled the release of the medication throughout the day or even for a week with a single dose.

Side Effects of SSRI Drugs

Because all SSRIs function in a similar way, to supplement the amount of serotonin available in the brain, they also cause similar side effects. In any case, because each drug has a distinctly different chemical makeup, the drugs may affect different individuals differently. Typically, side effects of any of this medication subside after the first few weeks of treatment; however, some individuals find the side effects more troublesome than others.

The most common side effects of SSRIs include:

•Changes in sexual appetite
•Trouble sleeping
•Weight gain or loss
•Dry mouth

In addition to these side effects, women who are pregnant should not take SSRIs. Research has shown links to birth defects in conjunction with taking a SSRI during pregnancy. Additionally, SSRIs may cause suicidal thoughts and tendencies, especially in teenagers. Because of these and other side effects, the FDA has issued multiple warnings about the drugs. Additionally, some forms of the drugs have been the target of various product liability lawsuits.

Common SSRI Drugs

With the growing epidemic of depression in today’s society, prescription SSRIs have become widely available. Among the most commonly used antidepressant drugs are Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft.


Prozac in combination with its generic counterparts comprises the third-most-prescribed antidepressant in the United States. Research is being done to determine the rate of over-prescription of this drug as well as its connection to adverse side effects. Many individuals who take Prozac experience complications such as birth defects, nausea, insomnia, weakness, sexual dysfunction, and even tremors.


Introduce to the United States Market in 1992; Paxil has been approved by the FDA to treat both depression and panic attacks. Paxil is considered especially dangerous for pregnant women and women who are nursing.


Zoloft is also a popular antidepressant that entered the market in 1991. This drug has also been linked to birth defects, increasing the chance of abdominal defects in a fetus by 2.8 times.

In recent years, the FDA has begun requiring antidepressant manufacturers to include black-box warnings – the highest alert on a medication before being pulled from the market – outlining the risk of suicide risk children face during initial use of the drug.