Citalopram: What It’s For, How to Take It & Side Effects

Citalopram is an antidepressant that is classified as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. It is prescribed for the treatment of depression, panic disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder in adults. .

These medications can be obtained at the pharmacy with a prescription, either as its generic name or brand name, Celexa. 

The dose and time of treatment depends on the condition being treated and the presenting symptoms. It is important to not discontinue use on your own, as cutting it off suddenly can cause side effects like dizziness, anxiety, headache or confusion.

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Common uses

Citalopram is prescribed for the treatment of: 

  • Depression
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) 

Citalopram acts by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. This neurotransmitter is responsible for the communication between neurons and for the regulation of mood, sleep and appetite. It should be prescribed by a doctor after thorough assessment of the patient. 

How to take it

Citalopram should be taken orally with a cup of water, once per day at the same time. It can be taken before or after a meal. 

The recommended doses depend on the condition being treated, and are as follows: 

  • Depression: The recommended dose is one 20 mg pill per day. This dose can be increased to 40 my per day, depending on the treatment response. 
  • Panic disorder: The initial recommended dose is 10 mg per day on the first week, which can be increased to 20 to 30 mg per day after this first week. The maximum recommended dose is 40 mg, depending on the treatment response. 
  • OCD: The recommended dose is one 20 mg pill per day, which can be increased to 40 mg per day, depending on the treatment response. 

Citalopram can take 2 to 4 weeks to reach its desired effect. Changing doses or discontinuing use should be done under the direction of a doctor.

Citalopram treatment can last for many months. When it comes time to stopping this medication, the doctor will gradually reduce the dose.  

Possible side effects 

The most common side effects that can emerge during treatment are nausea, diarrhea, constipation, appetite loss, dry mouth, increases thirst, gargles, dizziness, ear ringing, tremors, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, drowsiness, increased sweating, decreased libido, impotence, abnormal ejaculation or difficulty reaching orgasm.

It is important to communicate certain symptoms to your doctor, like changes to mood or behavior, worsening or anxiety or depression, more panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, impulsivity, irritation, agitation, aggression, restlessness or suicidal thoughts. 

Although it is rare, citalopram can cause serotonergic syndrome, which is a reaction that causes muscle rigidity, incontrollable movements, loss of motor coordination, agitation, hallucinations, fever, chills, excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac palpitations or loss of consciousness. In these case, you should seek medical help or proceed to the closest hospital. 

Contraindications for use

Citalopram should not be used by children or teens under 18 years old, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, or people with an allergy to this medication or any of its components. 

Citalopram should not be used by anyone taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (like selegiline, moclobemide, isocarboxazid, phenelzine, nialamide, iproniazid, or tranylcypromine). In these cases, you should wait at least 14 days after terminating MAOI treatment before starting citalopram. 

This meidcation should also not be used by people take lithium, metoprolol, linezolid, sumatryptan, tramadol, cimetiditine, mefloquine, bupropion, acetylsalicylic acid, or anti-arrhythmic medications.