Antidepressants typically take a while before their effects begin kicking in, sometimes several weeks. In fact, drugs.com says that it may take several weeks for antidepressants to start working, and says “up to four weeks” for Cymbalta.
When I urged my father to convince my mother to take an antidepressant, he said, “It’ll take two weeks before it starts working, and by then, she’ll be fine.”
Being a believer in that possible exception to the rule, I persisted, and finally, after six weeks of bantering with my father, he relented, and I’ll never forget how I felt when I was walking in the parking lot of the medical clinic towards my car, holding the little bag with the bottle of Cymbalta in it.
I just knew that this antidepressant would start working within 24 hours.
And I was right. The next day, my mother had a look of life in her eyes that I had not seen for almost two months. She said she “felt human again,” and was talking about baking bread, when just the day before, she could barely get out of bed and spoke of “going into the woods to die.”
And this was no momentary spike in mood; the effect was sustained, though (as predicted by my brother, a pharmaceutical chemist) she ultimately required a few dose increases when the effect began wearing off (this is typical with the induction of an SSRI drug).
So never let the “It will take several weeks to kick in” mantra influence your judgment.
For some individuals, an antidepressant that would normally take a few weeks to start working (like Cymbalta and other SSRIs on the market) might just, strangely, work like a charm literally overnight.
Nevertheless, a new study suggests that a more reliably fast-acting antidepressant may be around the corner. Jeffery Talbot, PhD, from Roseman University of Health Sciences, conducted a study on mice with a drug that showed evidence of mood elevation within 24 hours, and then continued working.
This drug has a code name, MI-4, but is also known as Ro-25-6981. The research also shows that this drug is not likely to become addictive.
Though ultimately, my mother’s depression may have been caused, or at least, exacerbated by hypothyroidism (low thyroid was confirmed with a blood test), we will never know to what extent it was independent from the thyroid disorder.
An antidepressant drug may be the only option left when the patient requires 20 minutes of prodding to simply sit up in bed, refuses to eat, has frequent sobbing spells and has become non-functional. You can’t snap someone out of severe depression by denying the problem.