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August 23, 2012 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Name that medication! Vaguely remembered medication from the early to mid-1980s. I was mildly depressed, feeling in a rut. I went to a Kaiser psychiatrist in San Diego, CA. He prescribed a small, white pill that I took for a relatively short time (don't think I refilled the 'scrip)--it was great, no side effects, just elevated my mood enough that I could do other stuff to help myself: started exercising, lost some weight, got out of the house more...just felt better. The records from that time are long gone--I checked. Any ideas about what it might have been?

What it probably wasn't: SSRIs and I don't get a long--I get lots of unpleasant side effects and no improvement. I took Tofranil as a child and it gave me terrible nightmares and nausea, so not that.
posted by agatha_magatha to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wellbutrin? Colors can change - I've seen this pill in the last year or so and it was whiteish. It's been a while so I don't know for sure.
posted by tilde at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2012

What shape was the pill? (Round, oval, pentagonal, square?)
posted by mskyle at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2012

My recollection is that it was round and maybe 5-6mm in diameter. I don't remember any marks.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2012

Ritalin is that size and shape and very light blue.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:22 AM on August 23, 2012

(And would have the effect you describe.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:22 AM on August 23, 2012

It sounds a helluva lot like Wellbutrin, but for one fact: Wellbutrin was only released in 1985. That means a GENERIC was not available until several years later. Legit, non-generic Wellbutrin would almost CERTAINLY have some sort of marking on it.

It could also have been generic methylphenidate (Ritalin) - plenty o' companies make it, it was generic by then, it does provide just a general "peppiness" to life. OTOH, it would be a weird-ass first-line choice for plain ol' depression, unless your doctor was Dr. Feelgood.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this could have been anything. A white pill-shaped pill-sized pill isn't a lot to go on and anything people mention will just be blind guesses without a basis.
posted by Justinian at 10:25 AM on August 23, 2012

Given the time period, mood elevation, and weight loss, my first assumption was a low dose of dexies.
posted by elizardbits at 10:32 AM on August 23, 2012

This might not work since I assume pill design has changed since the 1980s but there are a lot of free medical apps that do pill ID. I think epocrates does it and maybe medscape too? You can put in shape, text, color, etc. and it will narrow down. A plain white pill may give you a big list but it is someplace to start.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:38 AM on August 23, 2012

Wellll... while, yes, it COULD be anything, based on the OP's results, it is more LIKELY to have been some things than other things. Back in The Proverbial Day, tricyclics were the common first-line antidepressant, and they were not a whole lot of fun. The first SSRIs weren't marketed in America until the late 80's, which doesn't fit with the OP's timeframe. The OP would DEFINITELY remember if he'd been on an MAOI (doctors do NOT mess around with the side effects with those bad boys). Other types of antidepressants (SNRIs, etc.) weren't really around back in the early 80's. I think that it's not unreasonable to say that the OP was LIKELY to have been on some low-dose stimulant - generic Ritalin or Adderall, I'd guess.
posted by julthumbscrew at 10:40 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

The stimulant suggestion makes a lot of sense.

If you can go to a local medical library and look at old Physician's Desk Reference books from the 80s, those have photos of a lot of the most popular drugs being prescribed at the time they're published.

You could also check out a drug ID tool like the Pill Identifier on - but if you do, you'll find that you have to look through thousands of other pills (mostly variations on common drugs like acetaminophen) and the drug you're actually looking for might not be in there if it's been discontinued (it might be in there even if it has been discontinued, though - part of the point of these tools is to figure out what old drugs are after you've lost the label).

Both of those options, though, assume that you'll be able to recognize the tablet or the drug name when you see it :(

Unfortunately I don't know of any drug ID tools that allow you to limit by the year that they were available, the size of the pill, or the probable indication. And my job title is Pharmacy Librarian. So I really should know. I just looked in a book to see if I was missing anything and the first paragraph I read was about the difficulty of IDing "The small white table scored on one side, with a numeric code or logo on the other..."
posted by mskyle at 10:44 AM on August 23, 2012

I took imipramine in those years, and it was white.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:47 AM on August 23, 2012

Seconding that it could have been an MAOI (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) or tri-cyclic anti-depressants, two older classes of drugs popular before SSRIs became first line therapy in the 1990s. Since these are much less popular now it is possible the exact brand or generic you described is no longer manufactured as the exact pill you remember.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:08 AM on August 23, 2012

Yeah, I knew this was a longshot--I guess my thinking was that this was pre-"Prozac Nation" days and wondering what might have been the "go to" alternative for that time. Kaiser is very conservative (now and back then) about what they add to their formulary--they don't usually go for "off label" uses, etc. I'm sorry to be so vague--it was a long time and many lost brain cells ago.

Thanks for the good ideas, I mostly just wanted to be able to give some direction to my discussion with my doctor.
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:10 AM on August 23, 2012

You could try the forums at I've seen stranger queries there.
posted by elizardbits at 11:32 AM on August 23, 2012

For the sake of the chorus, another possible tricyclic is amitripyline, if that jogs your memory.
posted by Jehan at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2012

Sounds like quaaludes to me. Small and white, made you feel real nice. No sides that I ever experienced. Readily available in the '80's. True, they aren't anti-depressants. In fact, they're depressants. But if they did the job...
posted by ubiquity at 1:26 PM on August 23, 2012

Pharmacist here....considering the time-frame, I might guess trazodone (brand name: Desyrel). Or amitriptyline (brand name Elavil). Any antidepressant from that time period would most likely be a tricyclic antidepressant or MAO-inhibitor. If it were an MAO-inhibitor, you might have been cautioned about eating aged cheeses or sausages.
posted by Pocahontas at 2:58 PM on August 26, 2012

Elavil rings a bell, I think you've got it, Pocahontas!
posted by agatha_magatha at 5:43 PM on September 23, 2012

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