It takes time before any antidepressant kicks in. But some medications relieve your symptoms faster than others.

Waiting for medication to work can be challenging. And if you’re having to try various options that don’t provide relief, finding a drug that does improve your symptoms can take a lot of time and effort.

Other options, such as ketamine and newer antidepressants, may help provide faster relief, reducing symptoms in days instead of weeks.

With the most common antidepressants, people usually start to feel the antidepressant effects after 1 to 2 weeks of taking the medication.

According to a 2008 review, you might notice the effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) after a week of use, with symptoms continuing to improve for at least 6 weeks. The time frame varies based on each person’s circumstances.

Common antidepressants include:

While these antidepressants work for many people, some other medication options have faster action and might be useful when a person doesn’t respond to other antidepressants (treatment-resistant depression) or needs relief right away to keep them safe.


Ketamine is a medication originally used for anesthesia and pain relief, but medical professionals also use it to help people with treatment-resistant depression.

Unlike other antidepressants, ketamine can improve depression symptoms in just a few hours. A 2018 clinical trial found that intravenous ketamine significantly and quickly reduced suicidal ideation in people with depression.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a ketamine-derived drug called esketamine in 2019 for treatment-resistant depression. Esketamine comes in the form of a nasal spray.

Esketamine is part of a new class of antidepressant drugs called N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor blockers.

By blocking NMDA brain receptors, esketamine (and other NDMA receptor blockers) stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which helps create new neural connections. Experts believe that stimulating new brain connections can improve depression symptoms.

A 4-week study from 2015 of 30 people found that treatment involving ketamine and an SSRI (escitalopram )was well-tolerated and helped with severe depression symptoms, compared with those who took only the SSRI.

Ketamine and ketamine-derived products come with potential side effects, including:

  • sedation
  • dissociation
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vertigo
  • anxiety
  • increased blood pressure
  • vomiting

Because of the potential for severe side effects, a healthcare professional will need to monitor you for at least 2 hours after taking your first dose. And while the prescription nasal spray is easy to administer, you’ll need to take it in a doctor’s office and not at home.

The FDA warns that esketamine (brand name Spravato) can cause dissociation and sedation. There’s also the potential for misuse, so it’s listed as a schedule 3 drug on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) list of controlled substances.

Other fast-acting medications

While esketamine is the only FDA-approved fast-acting antidepressant, research is ongoing to find new depression medications that offer faster relief than traditional options.

A 2021 clinical trial of a drug called zuranolone found that the drug significantly reduced symptoms in people with postpartum depression compared to the control group.

The FDA approved another drug called brexanolone in 2019, also for postpartum depression. Brexanolone is administered via infusion, unlike zuranolone, an oral drug.

Some antidepressant medications may also help quickly address anxiety symptoms. Still, they may not have the same effect on depression symptoms.

For example, a 2019 placebo-controlled trial found that sertraline, a type of SSRI medication, weakly improved depression symptoms within 12 weeks but reduced anxiety in half that time.

The gold standard treatment for depression involves therapy, medication, or both. But not everyone has access to treatments. Checking out affordable treatment options and learning to cope with the symptoms daily is helpful.

You might consider trying these coping tips:

  • Make quality time for yourself. Whether that involves relaxing with your favorite book or soaking in a bubble bath after a long day, setting aside time for self-care may help provide some relief.
  • Go for a walk. Being outdoors and getting exposure to sunlight can help boost vitamin D levels and improve your mood.
  • Do something active. It can be hard to find the energy to move when feeling depressed, but even a short burst of exercise could release feel-good endorphins.
  • Call up a friend. If talking on the phone isn’t appealing, send a text message or set up a video meeting to catch up. Depression can make you feel isolated, so setting aside time to be with others, whether online or in person, may help you feel less alone.

Looking for more tips? You can check out Psych Central’s article on how to feel better fast when you have depression.

Whether you’re trying a new depression medication for the first time or are curious about other options, finding the right antidepressant can take some time.

Learning about the options and talking about them with a doctor may help you feel better equipped to choose an antidepressant that’s right for your needs.

And while medication is often an important part of treating depression, therapy and self-care strategies are also valuable tools to consider.

Are you thinking about talking with someone about your depression symptoms but aren’t sure where to start? Consider checking out Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource for more information.