What Is Trazodone?
Trazodone is an Antidepressant also known by the brand names Desyrel, Dividose, and Oleptro. It is most commonly used to treat major depressive disorder with or without anxiety. Doctors will sometimes prescribe Trazodone off-label to treat alcohol dependence and insomnia as well. Trazodone can definitely cause dependence, although whether Trazodone addiction is possible is debated.
Trazodone falls under the category of drugs called Serotonin Antagonists and Reuptake Inhibitors (SARIs), also known as serotonin modulators or phenylpiperazine Antidepressants. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in mood stabilization, and low levels of the chemical messenger may result in depression and other mental disorders. SARIs work by targeting serotonin receptors, such as the 5-HT2A receptor, which blocks the receptors from the reuptake of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. This process allows for more serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine to be available to pass through nerve cells. This increased serotonin leads to a healthier and more balanced brain, which can help regulate depression, anxiety, and troubled sleeping. Health practitioners will sometimes prescribe Trazodone over a Barbiturate sleeping medication because it is less likely to lead to addiction or cause severe side effects.
Trazodone is available in the form of 25 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg tablets for oral ingestion. Dosage typically starts at 150 mg daily and can be increased in 50 mg increments based on a patient’s response to the medication. This prescription should be taken with food and avoided if a MAO Inhibitor has been used within the past 14 days. Trazodone is generally safe, and research has shown that it is effective in treating depression and insomnia. However, like any substance, it carries risk for misuse, dependence, withdrawal, and overdose. Anyone who is taking Trazodone is at risk for addiction and should only use it as prescribed by health professionals.
Trazodone Dependence And Addiction
Trazodone is a long-term medication. Although it is not inherently dangerous to take Trazodone for months or years, doing so may result in dependence. If a person needs to take Trazodone in order to feel normal, or if they feel withdrawal symptoms without it, they have become dependent. Whether or not Antidepressants are addictive is up for debate since people do not typically crave these drugs. Regardless, people who stop taking Trazodone suddenly may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Patients who no longer want to take this medication should talk to a healthcare provider about tapering off until it is safe to completely end treatment.
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In order to avoid the experience of withdrawal symptoms, a person may continue to use Trazodone even if it is no longer needed. In extreme cases, those with a dependency or addiction will visit different doctors for more prescriptions or purchase it illegally. The cycle between withdrawal and relapse is characteristic of an addiction disorder, but fortunately prescription drug addiction can be treated with detox and combination therapy at a rehab facility.
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Trazodone Addiction: Symptoms Of Withdrawal
Trazodone withdrawal can result in Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome. Symptoms are similar to that of depression and anxiety and begin to manifest when medication use stops abruptly. Withdrawal symptoms result from changes in the brain that cause alterations to serotonin receptors. In response to Trazodone, the brain reduces the number of receptors. When a person stops taking the drug, the decreased volume of receptors creates a short-term deficiency of serotonin activity. The body will typically correct this on its own, but one may experience uncomfortable symptoms during an adjustment period. Experiencing withdrawals from Trazodone does not always mean a person is addicted, but it does indicate a physical dependency on the medication. Symptoms of Trazodone withdrawals may include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Shock-like sensations
- Suicidal thoughts
- Vertigo or difficulty walking
- Trouble concentrating
To avoid withdrawal symptoms, a person should always take Trazodone as prescribed without skipping doses. If one wishes to stop or switch their medication, they should consult a medical professional and discuss options. The best way to end treatment is by using a tapering strategy under medical supervision; this strategy gradually reduces the prescribed dose until it reaches zero. Symptoms of Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome can start as soon as one day after the last dosage and remain for 2 to 3 weeks.
Side Effects And Risks Of Trazodone
As with all medications, Trazodone may cause side effects. The most common side effects are not long-lasting or life-threatening, but there can be cases where the medication may cause serious side effects that require medical attention. Common side effects of Trazodone include:
- blurred vision
- drowsiness, dizziness, or tiredness
- weight loss
- stuffy nose
Less common side effects include:
- dry mouth
- diarrhea or constipation
- sexual dysfunction
- priapism (painful and persistent erection of the penis or the clitoris)
- cardiac arrhythmia
Call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- skin rashes
- fast or pounding heartbeats, shortness of breath, and sudden dizziness (feeling like passing out)
- slow heartbeats
- easy bruising or unusual bleeding
- low sodium levels in the body
A black box warning has been issued by the FDA for Trazodone. A black box warning is used to inform consumers about dangerous potential effects of a prescription drug. According to its label, Trazodone can produce or increase suicidal thoughts in children and young adults. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should ask their doctors about the risks involved in taking this medication. Drug interactions can also be dangerous when mixing different substances. People who have used an MAO Inhibitor (MAOI) such as Isocarboxazid, Linezolid, Phenelzine, Rasagiline, or others must wait at least 14 days before taking Trazodone. Likewise, those who stop taking Trazodone should wait 14 days before taking an MAOI.
Although not very common, it’s possible for someone to suffer an allergic reaction to Trazodone. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling. People shouldn’t take Trazodone if they are allergic or being treated with methylene blue injections. Allergic reactions can be life-threatening and require emergency medical attention.
Symptoms Of Overdose
It is possible to overdose on Trazodone. Overdosing on Trazodone is usually not life-threatening but can occur if someone takes too much of the medication. When too much serotonin accumulates in the body, serotonin syndrome can result. It may present with mild to severe symptoms that include:
- Agitation or restlessness
- Twitching muscles
- Rapid heart rate and high blood pressure
- Shivering and goosebumps
One should receive immediate medical attention if they experience:
- High fever
- Irregular heartbeat
Trazodone overdose can be fatal when mixed with alcohol, Barbiturates, or Sedatives such as Valium. One should avoid drinking alcohol while taking this medication.
Get Help Today For A Trazodone Addiction
If you or someone you know has become addicted to Trazodone, seeking help early on can help prevent complications in the future. Contact a treatment provider today to learn more about treatment options.
Ginni Correa is a Latinx writer and activist living in Orlando,FL. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and double majored in Psychology and Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies. After graduation, Ginni worked as an educator in public schools and an art therapist in a behavioral health hospital where she found a passion working with at-risk populations and advocating for social justice and equality. She is also experienced in translating and interpreting with an emphasis in language justice and creating multilingual spaces. Ginni’s mission is to build awareness and promote resources that can help people transform their lives. She believes in the importance of ending stigma surrounding mental health and substance abuse while creating more accessible treatment in communities. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, crafting, and attending music festivals.
- More from Ginni Correa
- Connell, Paula. (2019). SSRI Withdrawal Symptoms. Retrieved on January 6, 2020 from https://www.verywellmind.com/ssri-discontinuation-syndrome-378682
- Drugs.com. (2019). Trazodone. Retrieved on January 6, 2020 from https://www.drugs.com/trazodone.html
- Drugs.com. (2019). Serotonin Syndrome. Retrieved on January 6, 2020 from https://www.drugs.com/mcd/serotonin-syndrome
- Jaffer, K. Y., Chang, T., Vanle, B., Dang, J., Steiner, A. J., Loera, N., … Ishak, W. W. (2017). Trazodone for Insomnia: A Systematic Review. Innovations in clinical neuroscience.
- National Library of Medicine. (2022). Trazodone: MedlinePlus Drug Information. Retrieved on June 14, 2022 from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a681038.html