Can my primary care physician prescribe me antidepressants?

Written by DanielleBosely MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

Treating depression is tricky. It is estimated that some 350 million people are suffering from depression worldwide. There are multiple causes and the path to treatment is rough with bumps in the road. No one treatment approach fits all. Instead, people are left to experiment with their bodies and must often jump from one medication to the next until they find the right fit. This is the depression game and it’s not something you want to embark on without a professional by your side that truly knows what they are doing.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants are prescription medications used to treat a variety of mental health woes. They actually stem far beyond clinical depression. Many people with hormonal imbalances, bipolar disorder, personality disorders and more will benefit from the use of an antidepressant. There are different types, too. The most common kind of antidepressant, known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor — SSRI for short — is used to treat patients who are thought to be suffering from situational or chemical depression.

Other antidepressants include: noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, reversible inhibitor of monoamine oxidase A, tetracyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, melatonergic antidepressants, tetracyclic analogue of mianserin, and specific serotonergic antidepressants.

PCP Care

Primarycare doctors are wonderful resources for patients. Often, they are the starting point for any patient who has an HMO health insurance plan, which requires referrals to specialists in order for the patient’s treatment and visit to be covered by their benefit plan. Even when a patient has a PPO plan, they will frequently go to their PCP first to determine what kind of doctor they should see next. It’s pretty common for patients to seek their PCPs advice, because they are comfortable with their doctor and trust their guidance.

Who Can Prescribe Antidepressants?

Although it would be ideal for many people if their PCP could prescribe antidepressants for them, it’s not as feasible as it sounds. Primarycare doctors are not trained in psychology. Thus, they do not have the education required to know when antidepressants are even an appropriate method of treatment. Sometimes, a patient just might be going through a rough patch and medication isn’t necessarily warranted. In other cases, their depression may be so severe that a stronger medication is needed, such as a mood stabilizer.

If you’re in need of a prescription for antidepressants — whether it’s new or a refill script — you will need to visit a psychiatrist to get them. Some patients often think that a psychologist is the doctor to go to when antidepressants are needed. However, a psychologist is not licensed to write prescriptions. Only a psychiatrist can do such.

Roughly one in every ten people in the United States uses an antidepressant medication. In most cases, these drugs are very safe amongst a slew of prescription drugs that are not without side effects. While some of them may make users drowsy or emotionally numb at times, most of the time the tradeoff that comes with treating chronic depression is well worth putting up with the side effects.

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