Celexa is an SSRI medication. SSRI means selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor. Celexa is called an SSRI antidepressant because it interrupts the normal transmission of serotonin, an inhibitory natural chemical. This Interruption was designed to create a build up of serotonin which pools in the nerve synapses. Eventually, these blocked neurotransmitters will degrade, which may result in a serotonin deficit and worsened symptoms.
Very often this type of serotonin-targeting antidepressant has been prescribed without informing the patient what to expect. Serotonin is a naturally occurring neurochemical that produces a mood altering effect on the CNS (central nervous system). Drug manufacturers promote the idea that SSRI drugs restore balance by raising the levels of serotonin. The proposed theory is that more serotonin in the system will help lift depression. There may be a grain of truth in this idea, though ultimately, such a statement could be considered at best incomplete, or even misleading.
How a drug works can be helpful to understand for those persons who are looking for Celexa withdrawal help, and who are exploring ways to come off Celexa safely without introducing major health risks. As described earlier, for a period of time after taking Celexa, serotonin becomes artificially suspended along the nerve pathway. Serotonin molecules remain blocked (cannot be re-absorbed) and this will have a temporary mood altering effect, similar to the way a stimulant such as cocaine does. This temporary effect reverses as the serotonin degrades, which can lead to a worsening of depression and other undesirable side effects, likely accompanied by increased anxiety and emotional impulsivity. More specific information on Celexa withdrawal and important information on how to get off Celexa is discussed below in this article.
Initially, taking Celexa will begin to suspend (block) serotonin along the nerve channels, and this may produce a lift in tone, or a degree of euphoria. These initial mood changes may be sudden or gradual, and in either case, are temporary. It is not that a drug can create more serotonin. The effects are attained by manipulating or altering the rate of absorption and metabolism of natural neurochemicals such as serotonin. This lift in mood is one side effect of Celexa.
All antidepressant drugs are more or less designed to lift depression in this way, and can be effective for a time. However, other less positive side effects are commonly reported also. These commonly reported Celexa side effects are linked to the after-effects of this manipulation of natural neurochemistry. Subsequently, these emerging side effects can range from moderate to severe and include:
Suicidal thoughts, especially in persons under 25 years of age
While some people may not experience severe or negative Celexa side effects, when these do present they should be discussed with the primary caregiver so that precautions, such as a reduction of dose, or other medical intervention can be initiated. Some patients may experience unpredictable changes in mood and behavior while taking Celexa. Such Celexa side effects can include a mix of both mental and physical manifestations. These may include panic attacks, increased anxiety, impulsive or aggressive feelings. Also reported are negative emotional reactions such as irritability, hostility, agitation, or feeling like hurting oneself. Physical side effects of Celexa may present as physical hyperactivity, muscle weakness, and a particularly troubling sensation of restlessness known as akathisia, from the Greek root, “akathemi”, which means to be unable to sit down or sit still.
Celexa (citalopram) is also linked with some cases of what is called serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a complex set of reactions that may include seizures, motor control dysfunction, respiratory impairment, potentially fatal rise in body temperature, tremors, blood pressure fluctuations, etc., and must be treated immediately due to the life-threatening implications of this drug-induced condition. See further below for a more comprehensive list of serotonin syndrome signs to watch for.
Side effects of Celexa also link to the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding or abnormal bleeding in other areas of the body. These Celexa side effects are thought to be related to the adverse effects that Celexa can have on coagulation of the blood.
Mania is another Celexa side effect of concern. In Celexa drug trials, mania occurred in .2% of 1073 patients taking Celexa and in 0% of those in the placebo group for the trial.
Over a very short period of time, Celexa addiction or dependence can begin to impair a person’s health, and reduce the quality of life to a marked degree.
More Information on Serotonin Syndrome – Signs to Watch For:
One very troubling side effect of taking Celexa as with any serotonin-targeted medication is the risk of a build-up of too much serotonin. This excessive build-up of serotonin can result in “serotonin syndrome”. This is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical intervention. The remedy for this syndrome is, in part, to discontinue the medication but this must be done under strict monitoring and only in a medical facility that can provide immediate emergency treatment including the use of serotonin blockers, intravenous hydration, safe sedation, blood pressure stabilization, and other forms of life support that may be needed.
PLEASE NOTE: Serotonin syndrome is the only condition where the immediate cessation of Celexa is indicated and must be supported only in a medical setting. Gradual cessation is indicated in virtually every other scenario for safe Celexa withdrawal.
Here are the signs of serotonin syndrome to watch for that may indicate immediate medical intervention is necessary:
Medical advice will be to immediately stop taking Celexa and along with proper medical intervention, monitoring and support in place, many of these reactions will usually begin to gradually abate over a number of days. However, some of these symptoms may persist for quite some time, even after stopping Celexa. In these cases, a lengthier period of medical treatment and sometimes hospitalization may be indicated.
A person may feel that Celexa addiction or dependence has begun to set in and that it would be best to stop taking Celexa before the situation worsens. It could be that the severity of Celexa side effects has become more problematic than was anticipated or desired. There can be many reasons to consider Celexa withdrawal treatment. Once the decision of stopping Celexa has been initiated, a person is likely to experience a new set of symptoms which are collectively referred to as Celexa withdrawal symptoms. A list of the most common withdrawal symptoms is given below under the heading “Celexa Withdrawal Symptoms”.
Unfortunately, if adequate preparations have not been put in place, and perhaps where a person has not been informed about how to get off Celexa, these Celexa withdrawal symptoms may be severe enough to significantly overwhelm a person, perhaps causing them to give up and resume their Celexa prescription. The person may feel that their Celexa addiction or dependence has become unmanageable without some form of Celexa withdrawal help. Celexa withdrawal treatment is absolutely necessary in many cases to assist a person to achieve a full and successful recovery of physical and mental health.
With adequate preparation, including comprehensive guidance as to what to expect, one can be provided methods within a scheduled timeline. These actions can successfully mitigate and soften the symptoms of Celexa withdrawals. it is possible for a person to experience a surprisingly mild withdrawal from Celexa and other antidepressant drugs with careful oversight and planning.
WARNING: The FDA and other regulatory bodies warn against suddenly stopping Celexa or any antidepressant medication, due to the tremendous shock this can inflict on the body. What is recommended wherever possible is a gradual reduction as opposed to sudden cessation, or trying to quit Celexa “cold turkey”.
Medical opinions and literature vary quite a bit on how addiction is defined, so a definitive answer is not clear. However, in a New Zealand study, about 27% of the group that was involved in the study felt they were either severly addicted, moderately addicted, or had a mild addiction to Celexa or similar medications. Whether it is referred to as Celexa addiction or dependence, those are quite significant numbers and cannot be discounted. (6) In the US, NBC News reported one in six Americans are taking antidepressants, and a study found that 60% of those on antidepressants continue taking them for more than 2 years. (7) In the UK, it was reported in the British Medical Journal in 2018 that 12% of the British population was taking antidepressant medications and that the number of antidepresant prescriptions rose from 30 million in 2008 to 71 million in 2018. (8)
Clearly Celexa addiction, and addiction to other antidepressant drugs is a growing concern all over the world, and these soaring numbers show no sign of reversing. Many persons taking antidepressants as cited earlier, continue to take them because they feel the withdrawals are too severe to manage.
A person taking Celexa may find the unwanted side effects of the drug overshadow any perceived benefits of continuing to take the medication. In this case, a decision may be made to stop taking Celexa. Except in the case of serotonin syndrome, a person should never stop taking Celexa all at once or “cold turkey”. To do so may introduce an overwhelming shock to the body, and may cause symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.
With proper guidance and preparation steps for tapering Celexa safely, a person does not have to suffer unnecessarily harsh and lingering symptoms of Celexa withdrawal. Without preparation and guidance for a gradual taper, Celexa withdrawals can be moderate to severe and may include (but are not limited to) the following :
Questions relating to Celexa or citalopram are best directed to one’s prescribing physician, as patient history and health matters can differ greatly from one person to another. However, here are some of the most common questions that arise. It is always safest to seek medical advice from your primary caregiver whenever possible.
Dr. Motl is currently certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Psychiatry, and Board eligible in Neurology and licensed in the state of Arizona. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine with a Doctor of Medicine. Dr. Motl has studied Medical Acupuncture at the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine and at U.C.L.A.