SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are a type of antidepressant that can be prescribed to treat a number of conditions, including depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and peripheral diabetic neuropathy pain. They work by balancing the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. Side effects will vary depending on your specific medication, but may include headache, drowsiness, and dry mouth.
What Is an SNRI?
SNRI stands for "serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor." SNRIs are prescription medications used for a number of conditions.
What Are SNRIs Used For?
SNRI antidepressants were initially used for depression. However, many of them are now approved for additional uses. Approved uses include the treatment of the following conditions:
- Depression (also known as major depression or clinical depression)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Peripheral diabetic neuropathy pain (nerve pain in the hands, feet, arms, or legs due to diabetes)
- Social phobia (also known as social anxiety disorder)
- Chronic musculoskeletal pain (such as chronic low back pain).
Not all SNRIs are approved for all of the above uses.
How Do SNRIs Work?
SNRIs act on specific chemicals within the brain known as serotonin and norepinephrine. Serotonin and norepinephrine are two of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another.
As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin or norepinephrine. The serotonin or norepinephrine enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it.
When enough serotonin or norepinephrine reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin or norepinephrine that remains in the gap between cells. This is called "reuptake."
Normally, this process works without any problems. When the levels of serotonin or norepinephrine become unbalanced, however, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression. SNRIs help to block the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine so more remains in the space between the brain's nerve cells. This gives the serotonin and norepinephrine a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.