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Trazodone Side Effects, Withdrawal and FAQs

Trazodone, an SARI type antidepressant (serotonin antagonist reuptake inhibitor) is prescribed for depression and for several off-label uses.
SARI drugs are thought to block serotonin from adhering to 5-HT2 receptors. After neurochemical expression, serotonin would be broken down and removed.
Before starting or stopping a drug such as Trazodone it is recommended to adequately research and understand as much as possible in order to make an informed decision.

Below is a body of information that may help by providing the most searched for answers concerning trazodone side effects, withdrawal symptoms and other important data.

What is Trazodone Used For?

Trazodone is a generic drug prescribed for a number of conditions. First approved by the FDA in the treatment of major depressive disorder (MDD), it is also used in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, Fibromyalgia, headache, and is also used as a sedative for cocaine or alcohol withdrawal.  Other uses are for pain syndromes, panic disorder, diabetic neuropathy, eating disorders and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Trazodone Alternative Names and Slang

Oleptro is a brand name for the generic drug trazodone. Other brand names include Desyrel, or Desyril Dividose (extended release version).

Trazodone Side Effects

Trazodone side effects are similar to other antidepressants. These may be mild to moderate or severe, where medical attention is required. Side effects can include:

  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Increased depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Aggressiveness
  • Mania
  • Impulsive actions or behaviors
  • Muscle aches or pains
  • Changes in weight
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting, especially after rising from a seated or lying position
  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Impaired vigilance (inability to remained focused)
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased libido
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nasal congestion
  • Constipation
  • Priapism (a persistent painful erection)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rash
  • Swelling (most notably of the lips, tongue, throat, face)
  • Hives

Some of these side effects may require immediate medical attention as in severe allergic rash, seizures, cardiovascular events, etc.

Trazodone Withdrawal Symptoms

Some persons may experience very little in the way of withdrawal symptoms during gradual cessation. Others have more noticeable reactions.

Abruptly stopping an antidepressant drug can often induce intense withdrawals that can last for a very long time, and may significantly increase the time required for complete recovery.

Commonly reported adverse effects can range from mild to moderate to severe, and include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sweating
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Depersonalization
  • Worsened depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings, i.e. crying spells
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Tightness across the chest
  • Disorientation
  • Itching
  • Agitation
  • Headaches

Discontinuing/Quitting Trazodone

Trazodone has a half-life of approximately 6 to 9 hours and withdrawal symptoms may begin quite soon, within a day or a day and a half of the last dose. These figures would be different if a time-release version of the drug was prescribed.

It is thought that stopping trazodone all at once can cause a rebound effect in certain neurotransmitters, especially if the natural precursors for these neurotransmitters are not being supported during the withdrawal. For these reasons, very slow and gradual withdrawal is indicated as the best method. (1)

Stopping trazodone should be done gradually, rather than abruptly. Certain factors may influence how intense withdrawal can be for an individual, such as how long the drug was taken, and how high the dosage was.

Always consult your prescribing physician or other competent medical practitioner before stopping an antidepressant.

Trazodone FAQs

The following section addresses some of the most commonly asked questions and searches for information about trazodone.

Is Trazodone a Sleeping Pill?

Trazodone is classes as a SARI type of antidepressant. It is sometimes prescribed off-label for insomnia or other sleep issues, such as nightmares. Trazodone is not described as a sleeping pill, but it can be used to help induce sleep.

Is Trazodone a Narcotic?

A narcotic is a drug which affects mood, induces sleep, or numbs pain or other unwanted sensations. The word narcotic comes from the Greek “narko”, which means to numb pain. In a legal sense, the word narcotic most often refers to an illegal psychoactive substance. In medical usage, the word has come to generally refer to opioids such as heroin or morphine. There are similarities in affect between trazodone and narcotics, but legally there is a distinct difference because trazodone is an uncontrolled substance in the US, is not illegal to possess, and is a prescribed medication.

How Does Trazodone Work in the Body/Brain?

The mechanism of action of trazodone is thought to involve the effect of preventing serotonin and perhaps other neurotransmitters from binding to the usual receptors that these would normally bind to, connect with or be attracted to.

No drug can create neurotransmitters such as serotonin, or norepinephrine or dopamine. Drugs can only interfere with how they travel or are prevented from traveling along the neuron pathways of the brain and central nervous system.

As an example, when serotonin pools or becomes immobilized in the synapse, this is thought to produce a euphoric lift in mood.

Does Trazodone Show up on Drug Tests?

Yes, trazodone can show up on drug tests, however, it is unlikely to be screened for in multipanel drug tests that are commonly used, for example, in the workplace.

Is Trazodone a Benzo (Benzodiazepine)?

No. Benzodiazepine drugs are thought to influence the transmitters called GABA. Trazodone is thought to affect other natural brain chemicals. However, both drugs share similar properties in how they affect a person. Benzodiazepine drugs are recommended for only very short term use, according to FDA and other regulatory guidelines. Trazodone is often prescribed for much longer periods of time.

Trazodone is often used as a benzodiazepine alternative, and as a bridge to help people get off of benzodiazepines.

Can Trazodone Cause “Serotonin Syndrome?

Yes, any agent which causes too much of an increase in active serotonin in the central nervous system can induce “Serotonin Syndrome”. This reaction is considered potentially life-threatening and medical intervention is required, without delay. Usually one of the first treatments is to withdraw the drug.

This is the one exception where abrupt, i.e., immediate withdrawal is recommended as it can be life-saving.  Some symptoms of serotonin syndrome to watch for include:

  • Sudden fever
  • Coma
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Agitation
  • Diarrhea
  • Mental confusion
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Sweating
  • Twitching muscles

Treatment for Trazodone Abuse and Addiction?

The treatment for long term trazodone addiction or dependence may be beneficial where the withdrawal symptoms are intense and difficult to endure. Although the drug is promoted as not habit-forming, the actuality is that once the body becomes accustomed to the presence of the drug over time, there is the potential for a reaction when the drug is tapered.

There are many treatments and protocols which can lessen the severity of symptoms and accelerate the normalization process after trazodone use.

Alternative to Meds Center has refined the withdrawal process considerably, maintaining slow and safe tapering methods in the inpatient program. We help each client by preparing an individualized program consisting of many steps, for instance, lessening accumulated neurotoxic load, corrective nutritional therapy, therapeutic massage, Reike, and many other adjunctive therapies.

An important overall step in recovery from antidepressants is rebalancing neurochemistry naturally, to alleviate or eliminate the original symptoms that led to prescribing antidepressant medication in the first place.

The process of coming off trazodone can be surprisingly mild and easy to tolerate using such safe and gradual tapering protocols. Please feel free to ask us for more information on the processes that are used in the Alternative to Meds Center trazodone withdrawal program.

This content has been reviewed, and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. John Motl, M.D.

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’s of Science degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy. He graduated 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.

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