DNA Test Finds the Best Anxiety & Depression Medication for YOUVeronika Litinski
An estimated 17 percent of North Americans will experience a serious bout of depression during their lifetime, and 20 percent will experience an anxiety disorder.
Antidepressant medications are typically prescribed to help with six broad categories: panic attacks; obsessions and worries; general anxiety; social anxieties or phobias; and any combination of depression, anxiety and/or panic. Most antidepressants used to treat depression also work for anxiety – a benefit for the many people who experience these two problems simultaneously.
Medications for anxiety and depression fall into several different classes depending on the brain chemicals they target and how they work. Most prescribed antidepressants work to increase the level of serotonin and they’re called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs for short. When people fail to respond to several SSRIS, other drug types that are normally prescribed are called tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) and another type of drug called atypical antipsychotics can be added for people with treatment resistant depression.
Response to antidepressants is determined by multiple factors: social circumstances, the environment such as changing seasons and exposure to natural light, prior psychological trauma and upbringing, as well as genetic factors that affect your personality, brain function and the way you process, or metabolize drugs. Variations in the genes that process drugs affect how much of the drug is absorbed in your body and eventually reaches your brain. These variations also affect the risk and severity of side effects caused by antidepressants and other medications.
The side effects associated with antidepressants can vary from medication to medication, and depend on the individual taking the medication. Side effects can make sticking to your medication difficult. Some possible antidepressant side effects include:
- Weight gain
- Dry mouth
- Sexual dysfunction
Figuring out the right mental health medication and correct dose can be tough. According to a survey, people who took medication for anxiety or depression tried an average of three different drugs. Trying multiple medications before finding one that works can be time-consuming, frustrating, and even debilitating. Some medications may not be as effective, and others can cause serious – even life-threatening – side effects. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
DNA testing now allows us to determine the best antidepressant for your unique genetic profile. Genetic drug response testing, called pharmacogenetics, can find the right medication for you. Pharmacogenetics, or PGx for short, predicts how your body processes medication and how you will respond to antidepressants, and give your physician and pharmacist information on how to adjust the dose of a medication, to achieve the right level of medicine in your body. It might surprise you to know that 95% of people have unique genetic differences affecting how they respond to drugs.
How does PGx testing work?
What really happens when we take a medication? When the medicine gets ingested, enzymes in the liver go to work to eliminate it from the body. Liver enzymes convert medications into molecules that are easier to eliminate. Before being eliminated, these molecules are sent into the bloodstream. The enzymes in the liver determine how long these molecules remain. If you are a “slow metabolizer” these powerful molecules will circulate in your bloodstream for too long, and every additional dose will further increase drug concentration in your blood leading to severe side effects. On the other hand, if you are “rapid metabolizer”, the drug will be broken down very efficiently and too little amount of the drug will reach your brain, leading to ineffective treatment. PGx testing determines whether you have variations in these enzymes that will cause you to have issue metabolizing medications.
There are over 50 different medications used to treat anxiety and depression and they are metabolized by different liver enzymes. Any person can be a slow metabolizer for one group of antidepressants and rapid metabolizer for others. If you experienced significant side effects from antidepressants, or they were not effective for you, pharmacogenetic testing with Pillcheck can provide important insights and help your pharmacist and doctor find the best treatment for you.
By doing comprehensive genetic testing for drug response, you make a permanent investment in your health. A PGx test to determine how you respond to different medications has lifetime value because your genes do not change. The medications you require in the future may change, but your genes will not. The PGx test you do today is good for life, as long as the pharmacogenomic testing company gives you the report and provides automatic updates as new pharmacogenetic guidelines become available. The Pillcheck results are private and personal and are not shared with anybody but yourself. You can then choose with which physicians and pharmacists to share your results with. Your physician will have the final say as to how best adjust your prescriptions based on your drug metabolic profile to guarantee the safest and most effective medications for you so that you can avoid side effects and feel better, sooner.
Genetic Testing and Psychiatric Disorders :A Statement from the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics
Bradley, P. et al. Improved efficacy with targeted pharmacogenetic-guided treatment of patients with depression and anxiety: A randomized clinical trial demonstrating clinical utility. J Psychiatr Res 96, 100-107, doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2017.09.024 (2018).