What is Trazodone?

Trazodone is among a class of medications used to treat depression, insomnia, schizophrenia, and anxiety. But the AASM (American Academy of Sleep Medicine) does not recommend this drug for insomnia without depression. Despite this reality, trazodone is prescribed (the length of time it stays in the body). Trazodone used for insomnia is a Non-FDA-approved use. Additional uses of trazodone may be seen in managing alcohol dependence withdrawal. There can be side effects, such as hallucinations, when combined with alcohol. (Discussed later)

What is Habit Forming vs. Addictive

While trazodone may not be considered addictive, it can become habit-forming. Habit forming means you continue to take the medication though the problem may have been resolved. When using drugs, whether prescribed by a doctor or not, one crosses a fine line when taking medication beyond its original intention and outside of the way it has been prescribed. Once the use of the drug/medication becomes a motivating factor every day, it takes priority over work, school, family, hobbies, and friends. In other words, the person compulsively seeks the drug. That is addiction!

How does Trazodone work?

Trazodone is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor related to SSRIs, commonly referred to as a SARI.

“SSRIs treat depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that carry signals between brain nerve cells (neurons).

SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin into neurons. This makes more serotonin available to improve the transmission of messages between neurons. SSRIs are called selective because they mainly affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters

Uses of Trazodone (SARI) and SSRIs to Treat Anxiety

Trazodone is now preferred over benzodiazepines, an older class of narcotic drugs that are highly addictive. SARI and SSRIs are now commonly used to treat various anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. The use of trazodone must be under the supervision of a medical physician.

Effects of Mixing Medications and Illegal Substances

Trazodone has a numbing effect on many people. Central nervous system (CNS) depressants mustn’t be combined with other drugs. Drugs that impact the CNS in combination can cause life-threatening respiratory depression or the cessation of breathing. Additionally, the combination of various drugs can cause blood pressure problems and irregular heartbeats.

How Trazodone is taken

Trazodone is an oral medication that comes in tablet form (25 mg, 50mg, 100mg, 150mg, and 300mg strength) in capsules (50mg and 100mg strengths) and liquid form (10 mg or 20 mg in every 1ml.) A long list of drugs should not be combined with trazodone, including anticoagulants, aspirin, Advil and Motrin, Aleve, diuretics, fentanyl, lithium, pain medications, migraine medication, and other SSRIs such as Celexa, Lexapro, fluoxetine. Because trazodone causes drowsiness, it is usually taken in the evening after eating a meal.

Side Effects of Taking Trazodone

  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Weakness
  • Itching feelings
  • Dry mouth
  • Trouble seeing
  • Constipation
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Hearing loss
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sexual Dysfunction

As with many medications, a sudden ceasing of the medication can lead to many intense side effects. Stopping the use of trazodone abruptly is not recommended. You should seek medical attention first.

Withdrawal Symptoms of Trazodone

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Pain
  • Frenzied mood
  • Sweating
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Irregular heartbeat

In children and young adults, taking trazodone has been associated with increased suicidal thoughts. Additionally, this medication will increase the impact of central nervous system drugs such as alcohol, antihistamines, allergy medication, sedatives, and other medications. These include over-the-counter medications, illegal drugs, and certain supplements. St. John’s Wart is known to increase the side effects of trazodone.

Other side effects that require immediate medical attention.

  • Skin rash, red, swollen, blistered skin
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Difficulty breathing and speaking
  • Mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat swell
  • Priapism (a prolonged erection of the penis that continues for hours and is not caused by sexual stimulation but can cause long-term damage to the penis)
  • Hyponatremia (low sodium levels in elderly (over 65), which can lead to life-threatening conditions

People with existing cardiovascular conditions should be cautious before taking trazodone. The drug can cause heartbeat irregularities.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, if you suffer from bipolar disorder, you should be aware that manic episodes can occur because of this medication. Additionally, changes in feelings, such as aggression, impulsivity, and restlessness, can be signs of unwanted side effects.

If you have the conditions already mentioned, you should be wary of taking drugs like trazodone. If there are kidney or liver problems, taking trazodone can cause toxicity to occur, worsening the conditions. If your kidney or liver is compromised, and you are using drugs such as trazodone illegally, you would be wise to seek medical attention. A baseline liver function test should always be done before taking trazodone. Once therapy has begun, it should be followed by periodic monitoring. There are no positive benefits to the casual usage of trazodone.

Serotonin Syndrome

Serotonin syndrome is a drug reaction caused by medications that build high levels of serotonin in the body. Combining drugs that are known to increase serotonin levels will lead to serotonin syndrome. The symptoms can be:

  • Agitation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Shivering
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Diarrhea

More several symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • High fever
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Unconsciousness
  • Blood in urine
  • Ringing in the ears

People with neurological disorders can experience visual hallucinations. In some instances, trazodone, in combination with other drugs, such as alcohol, other antidepressants, CNS depressants, and migraine medications, can cause visual hallucinations. Some people have experienced auditory hallucinations and a disorganized type of psychosis which included hallucinations.

Using trazodone with drugs such as cannabis can increase the side effects of dizziness, drowsiness, and confusion. Some of the multiple side effects mentioned throughout the blog can also occur. It has been well documented that using trazodone has resulted in an increased propensity to fall, especially among older users.

If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse and is mixing drugs, call for help now. If you or a loved one has been inappropriately taking trazodone, alone or in combination with other drugs (legal or illegal), call for help now. One of our trained staff can answer all your questions and assist you on the road to recovery.