Antidepressants belonging to the drug class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRIs, work by influencing the levels of specific chemicals in the brain. They are typically considered effective at treating certain forms of depression, including major depressive disorder or MDD. Citalopram for depression works by altering the chemistry of the brain to balance the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical that is thought to play a significant role in regulating moods. Its effectiveness depends on factors such as patient age, cause of depression, and compliance with taking the medication as directed.
Doctors often prescribe SSRIs like citalopram for depression as a first line of treatment because they typically do not cause as many severe side effects as other, older types of antidepressants. Patients typically start with a low dose that slowly increases until they reach their maximum dose. While some patients begin to feel relief from their symptoms within one week, the medication generally takes up to one month to reach its full level of effectiveness.
As with any SSRI medication, citalopram for depression can cause side effects. The most common of these include drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, anxiety, excessive sweating and sexual dysfunction. Less common side effects include worsening of depression, thoughts of suicide, and seizures. All SSRIs can potentially cause serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal condition that results when the brain overloads with too much serotonin. While this condition is most common in those taking two antidepressants at the same time, it can occur when combining citalopram with certain cough medicines or illegal drugs. Patients who abruptly stop taking citalopram may suffer from withdrawal symptoms, so it is best to wean off the medication with their doctor’s assistance.
Extra precautions must be taken when using citalopram for depression in patients younger than 24 years of age because it is known to increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions in children, teenagers, and young adults. Although side effect is relatively rare, patients in these age groups must be carefully monitored, especially during the first few months of taking the medication. Doctors may need to make adjustments to the dose or stop the medication if patients exhibit signs of suicidality.
When taking citalopram for depression, it is important for patients inform their doctors about other medications they are taking, including any herbal supplements, as they can interact with the medication and either reduce its effectiveness or increase the risk of serious side effects. Patients with a history of severe kidney disorder may not be able to take citalopram. Those with liver disease, seizure disorders, or a history of drug or alcohol addiction may need to take a lower dose of citalopram for depression.