My doctor prescribed an antidepressant for my migraines. Is this an appropriate migraine treatment? I don't have depression.
Answers from Jerry W. Swanson, M.D.
Certain antidepressants can help reduce the frequency and severity of some types of headaches, including migraines. You don't have to be depressed to benefit from these drugs.
Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, are most effective and likely work by affecting the level of serotonin and other chemicals in your brain. There is little evidence that other classes of antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are effective for migraine prevention.
Side effects of antidepressants vary from one medication to another and from person to person. Side effects may include weight gain, fatigue, constipation and dry mouth. Such side effects can make it difficult to stick with treatment.
If the medication doesn't seem to be working or is causing bothersome side effects, talk to your doctor. Don't stop taking a prescribed medication without talking to your doctor first.
May 14, 2015
- Rolan PE. Understanding the pharmacology of headache. Current Opinion in Pharmacology. 2014;14:30.
- Jackson JL, et al. Tricyclic antidepressants and headaches: Systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2010;341:1.
- Banzi R, et al. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) for the prevention of migraine in adults (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD002919.pub3/abstract. Accessed April 24, 2015.