How AntiDepressant Drugs Like Prozac Work


Scientists have uncovered a new chemical process that may explain how
antidepressants like Prozac work. According to Science News, the newly found mechanism also
suggests why the drugs take weeks to start helping and may one day point
to new therapies for depression. 

Separation distress is very difficult to deal with in serious cases. Psychoactive drugs change the brain chemistry just enough to make learning possible. Scientists are learning more about how this process occurs among a group of drugs called SSRI’s.

Veterinary behaviorists already use fluoxetine (Prozac) and drugs like it to help pets with a range of issues, including aggressive dogs; dogs with serious separation distress and anxious cats who are having accidents outside the litter box.  

A team from Paris has found that Prozac increases the amount of a particular microRNA called miR-16 in the brain. A microRNA is a small piece of RNA that prevents the translation of messenger RNA into protein.

The miR-16 microRNA slows the formation of a cleaner-upper
protein called the serotonin transporter. The protein clears away
serotonin, a chemical that helps brain cells communicate and alleviates
depression, from the space between brain cells. With less of the cleaner-upper to gobble up serotonin in the brain,
there’s more serotonin in the spaces between brain cells, and depression
symptoms lessen for some human patients. Presumably, this is also how drugs like Prozac can help pets with a wide range of issues.

The truth is that for dogs and cats, Prozac is not a magic bullet. Still, the drug and drugs like it can save lives. The pyscho-pharmaceuticals just matter enough to make learning possible. . . So, from there, trainers and behavior consultants can work with the aggressive dogs, for example, using behavior modification. Or with that cat not using the litter box, maybe because of relationships with the other cats in the home gone bad; now behavior mod can be used to transform the cats’ views of one another. Over time, for most (not all pets), the SSRI (selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as Prozac can be weaned away. Dosed appropriately, these drugs (in pets) have few, if any, side effects or adverse reactions.

And what I mean by save lives is this. The terribly anxious dog barking like crazy when the people are gone can cause neighbors to complain, and a landlord to say, “fix the problem, or the dog goes.” Or the cat missing the box may force the owners to give the cat up if the urine isn’t aimed into the litter box.