Do antidepressants lose potency over time? (3+ reasons why you should avoid them) 

Do antidepressants lose potency over time?

Yes, antidepressants do lose potency over time – which is why they have expiry dates printed on the packaging. Every drug moiety remains good for a certain period of time, after which it either begins to lose effectiveness or converts into a different chemically active substance.

Antidepressants, being no exception, also begin to lose their clinical efficacy as they move past their expiration dates. Although these medications may remain effective for a long period of time after their printed expiration period, they should not be trusted. 

There is limited research on the degradation of drugs once they are past the expiration dates, which is one of the biggest reasons why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends not taking them (1). 

Yes, it may still work and help your mental health condition – but there’s an equal chance of it not working or making your mental condition even worse. There is no easy way to tell how an expired antidepressant will affect you and one shouldn’t risk their health to find it out. 

Potential risks of taking an expired antidepressant

Taking an expired antidepressant for your mental health condition is associated with some risks, which can vary from person to person. These include:

Inadequate therapeutic efficacy

The biggest concern with using an antidepressant that has expired and lost its potency is an insufficient therapeutic response, as the drug will fail to make the necessary changes in your system. 

Antidepressants alter the amount of excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain to counteract symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, and several other mental health conditions. Taking an ineffective antidepressant will not get you anywhere near your therapeutic goal. 

Delayed onset of action 

It is a known fact that antidepressants – including the most commonly used medicines like Zoloft, Lexapro, Effexor etc take time to work. These medications gradually start stabilising the excitatory chemicals in your brain and you can’t expect to see a positive change overnight. 

However, they do start managing your mood and some physical symptoms of depression. If you continue taking expired or ineffective antidepressants, it will take even longer to make positive changes in your condition. 

This not only affects your treatment, but it can also exacerbate your symptoms and the worsening of depression is the last thing one would want. This is why you should always stick to fully potent antidepressants.

Risk of adverse events 

As we have discussed earlier, expired antidepressants don’t have any guarantee regarding their safety and efficacy. Some drugs may chemically change into another active substance, or they may chemically degrade and become toxic. 

In such cases, taking an expired antidepressant can trigger serious allergic reactions, which may become life-threatening for some individuals. 

Relapse of symptoms 

A less potent antidepressant may still help you feel a little better, but you can’t expect the results to be long-lasting. Depression relapses are common even with fully potent antidepressants, so you can imagine why a less potent antidepressant can’t provide promising long-term results. 

What to do if you’re struggling with depression? 

Reach out to your mental healthcare professional if you’re struggling with depression. Depression is a mind-numbing illness which can significantly affect the quality of your life if not treated properly. If there’s something upsetting you, I recommend seeking therapy.

It always feels nice to talk to someone about your problems and therapy can help you look at the brighter side of your life. 

If your condition demands antidepressant therapy, your doctor will prescribe you the most appropriate medication based on your symptoms, age, the root cause of depression, the presence of any underlying disease, and overall physiological well-being. 

Make sure you don’t start taking any medication without your doctor’s approval. It is also important to properly follow your doctor’s directions and never deviate from the recommended dose and frequency of your antidepressant. 

Remember, proper use of medications is essential for a safe and effective therapeutic outcome. 

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U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Don’t Be Tempted to Use Expired Medicines [Internet]. Silver Spring (MD): U.S. Food and Drug Administration; 2021 [cited 2023 Jun 01]. Available from:

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