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Genetic Testing For Antidepressants

This article explains what PGx testing is, and why it is important for finding a successful antidepressant medication for your unique genetic makeup.

Genetic testing is a safe and efficient method of determining how an individual will metabolize medications for the treatment of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. The ability for an individual to break down different antidepressant medications varies greatly, and these differences are due to different genetic makeup. As a result, some drug treatments are likely to be better attuned to a given individual and to have fewer side effects, making it more likely to find a medication that works.

PGx testing examines how the body breaks down specific medications. This process involves individuals taking a non-invasive genetic test to establish the way in which certain genes involved with metabolism affect how the body responds to a given drug.

This article explains what PGx testing is, and why it is important for finding a successful antidepressant medication for your unique genetic makeup.

What is PGx Testing?

PGx testing, commonly known as pharmacogenomic testing, is a discipline in precision health that studies how your genes influence your body’s response to medication. PGx testing combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of DNA, genes, and their functions)to inform doctors on the safest medications and appropriate dosage.

Your genetic makeup dictates the speed at which your body metabolizes medications, which contributes to how the medication affects you. It can impact the rate at which you feel benefits, and it can also cause negative side effects if your body doesn’t process a given medication at the standard level. PGx testing remedies this by helping doctors tailor prescriptions to each individual’s genetics. 

This helps reduce the prolonged and frustrating period of trial and error that is common within depression medications and significantly decreases the risk of unpleasant side effects. As a result, an optimized treatment plan can be recommended to clients, with the use of personalized medicine to speed up the rate at which clients notice benefits. 

For more information on pharmacogenetic testing, read more on our website. 

Why Genetic Testing For Antidepressants?

PGx testing is one type of genetic testing, and different than other types of genetic testing that might tell you about your family history or likelihood to have a certain disease or cancer. PGx testing allows patients to take safe medications that are less likely to have side effects, in dosages that are better suited for their DNA.

This type of genetic testing is shown to be helpful for finding the right antidepressant treatment, which provides relief from symptoms of depression as well as many types of anxiety. Antidepressants are complex medication that requires patients to stay on them for at least 6 to 12 months once a productive dosage has been identified. Typically, without PGx testing, doctors set aside 3 to 6 months before this period of stability to find a medication that works for you. If you have severe symptoms, this phase of trial and error within drug administration can be challenging, heightening stress levels.

However, with genetic testing, your DNA can be studied using pharmacogenetics to predict your body’s metabolic response to a medication before you even take it. These test results can be used to significantly reduce the time it takes to find a suitable medicine and dose. 

These innovative lab tests also do the following:

Reduction of Medication Side Effects

At Prairie Health, one of the main reasons why we use PGx testing is to reduce the risk of adverse side effects. When battling psychiatric conditions, side effects of medications can cause feelings of hopelessness, as well as physical pain and discomfort. These unpleasant effects are often the result of the wrong dosage or medication type.

PGx tests work to determine the best dosage and medication type by analyzing the genes that relate to how your body breaks down medication, resulting in fewer side effects.

Less Medication Switching

PGx testing reduces the chance you will have to switch between numerous medications as it shortens the matching process. This is a great benefit for clients as doctors typically recommend staying on medication for at least 6 weeks to see benefits before deciding to switch to a different one. If the medication doesn’t work, this is a frustrating and lengthy process.

How Genetic Factors Play a Role in Drug Metabolism

While other factors, such as age and diet, also play a role, DNA variations contribute to how your body metabolizes a prescribed drug. Your DNA contains genes that are responsible for creating the enzymes that break down medications, and these enzymes differ between people in the rate at which this happens. Overall, the speed at which the enzymes metabolize antidepressants is directly related to your genetic makeup.

How Genes Relate to Your Depression Medication

Genetic testing is a beneficial step to take in the process of treating your depression. As outlined above, due to the genetic differences in enzyme activity, people metabolize antidepressants at different rates. This has a great impact on the success of certain medications, which is one reason an antidepressant could be appropriate for one person, but then not for another.

If your enzymes metabolize the medication too fast, you are less likely to experience the medication. Similarly, if your enzymes metabolize certain antidepressants too slowly or not at all, there is an increased risk of negative side effects. PGx testing helps to predict this response, enabling doctors to narrow down on medication types and dosage levels that are most suited to your genetics.

 You can learn more about depression and its diagnosis with Prairie Health.


In summary, your genes play a large role in the success of your antidepressant medication. Utilizing PGx testing, Prairie Health offers a personalized yet scientific approach to medicine, facilitating an optimized treatment plan. Contact us today to book your free consultation and start your journey towards great mental health!

For more information on a range of mental health topics, check out our Prairie Blog.

Learn More About PGx Testing

Wed Nov 03 2021

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