Therapeutic Review: PDF OnlyThe Management Challenges of Chronic Pain The Role of AntidepressantsBarkin, Robert L.*1; Fawcett, Jan2 Author Information 1Departments of Anesthesiology, Family Practice, and Pharmacology, The Rush Pain Center and 2Psychiatry, Rush Medical College, Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL, USA. *Address for correspondence: The Rush Pain Center, 1725 West Harrison, Suite 550 PB III, Chicago, IL 60612, USA. American Journal of Therapeutics: January 2000 - Volume 7 - Issue 1 - p 31-49 Buy Abstract Chronic pain is both difficult for patients to tolerate and for clinicians to treat effectively. It differs from other types of pain in etiology and impact, which in turn affects the duration and modalities of treatment options. Forty years of research have confirmed the efficacy of antidepressant agents in the management of chronic pain, yet these agents are used inadequately. A significant amount of evidence supports the use of the traditional tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) in the management of chronic pain, but because of their acute synaptic effects on multiple, nontherapeutic receptor systems, they are associated with numerous undesirable side effects. The newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have, comparatively, only serotonin-receptor-mediated side effects. These agents have not been thoroughly studied in the treatment of chronic pain. Moreover, because SSRIs impact reuptake of only one monoamine system, it is plausible that they may be less efficacious than the TCAs in treating chronic pain. Venlafaxine, the first agent in the new class of serotonin (5-HT)-norepinephrine (NE) reuptake inhibitors, is unique because it inhibits reuptake of both 5-HT and NE (and to a lesser extent dopamine), as do some of the TCAs; however, it accomplishes this without affecting other nontherapeutic receptors. Venlafaxine is at least as effective as the TCAs, but is more tolerable, because it lacks the receptor-mediated side effects common to the TCAs. The unique characteristics of venlafaxine, including minimal cytochrome P-450 drug interaction, may make it a particularly useful antidepressant in the adjunctive treatment of chronic pain. © 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.