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How Do I Choose the Best Citalopram Alternative?

By Kathleen Howard
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Citalopram is a prescription medication used to help adults manage their depression. Due to unwanted side effects, some patients may want to find a citalopram alternative. Patients may also need to find an alternative if citalopram fails to treat their depression after several weeks of use. To find a citalopram alternative, users should talk to their doctor about other medications that might meet their needs without producing negative side effects.

The most common risks of citalopram include nausea, insomnia, drowsiness, hair loss, weight gain, weight loss, suicidal urges and sexual side effects. These effects typically begin to improve after a few weeks of regular use. Before looking for an alternative, patients who are experiencing mild to moderate side effects should allow their bodies to adjust to their dosage of citalopram. More serious side effects like increased thoughts of suicide should be discussed with a physician immediately.

If a patient does need to switch medications, there are a few factors he or she will need to consider. The first consideration is whether the alternative medication will be effective in treating the patient’s depression. An alternative medication must also be safe to use and reduce the patient’s risk of experiencing side effects.

Different types of antidepressants have various effects on the body. Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This means that the medication prevents serotonin from being reabsorbed, which increases the amount of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the hormone responsible for feelings of well-being.

If citalopram is ineffective in treating a patient’s depression, he or she may want to explore other types of antidepressants. Several types of antidepressants can aid in treating depression. Other than SSRI, the most common types of antidepressants are serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressant, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).

Patients who experience drowsiness while taking citalopram may benefit from an SNRI. These drugs affect a patient’s norepinephrine levels and produce a stimulating effect. MAOI and tricyclic antidepressants are typically used when other alternatives fail to work. While these medications are often effective, they also produce negative side effects in many users.

In cases in which citalopram is effective,but causes unwanted side effects, patients might benefit from trying another SSRI. Just because citalopram causes unmanageable side effects does not mean that every SSRI will affect a patient the same way. Some patients must try several antidepressants until they find one that works for them.

To make the switch from citalopram to another medication, patients will need to discuss their situation with their physician. A doctor will be able to explain a patient’s alternatives and assist in choosing an alternative that is safe and effective. Under no circumstance should a patient stop taking his or her medication. Discontinuing medication might lead to symptoms associated with citalopram withdrawal. Switching to a citalopram alternative is a decision that must be made with the help of an experienced medical professional.

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Discussion Comments

By ZipLine — On Aug 31, 2014

All SSRIs are the same. They work but they cause the person to go through hell during withdrawal, especially if he or she took the drug for a few years which is actually the norm.

If possible, natural treatments should be tried first. There are ways to calm the nerves and increase serotonin production naturally. Herbs like passiflora, lemon balm, chamomile can help with anxiety thanks to their sedative effects. And they don't have dangerous side effects. Getting sunlight, spending time in nature, meditation are also ways to increase serotonin. Even the foods we eat affect our serotonin production, so eating healthily will help as well.

By SarahGen — On Aug 30, 2014

@candyquilt-- First of all, keep in mind that most depression treatments take about six months to show their effects. This also applies to SSRIs. So it's actually normal not to experience all the benefits before the six month mark is up. These medications increase serotonin levels in the brain but it takes a while for it to happen.

I too was put on citalopram first by my doctor for anxiety. It helped with anxiety but the side effects were too much for me. I was also tried all the time and the medication gave me a strange side effect, it made my yawn constantly. I went back to my doctor and she switched me to escitalopram which is basically the improved version of escitalopram. I experienced little to no side effects on this medication and it got rid of my anxiety completely despite a low dose.

It's difficult to say if escitalopram will work just as well for you though because everyone reacts to medications a little differently.

By candyquilt — On Aug 30, 2014

My doctor put me on citalopram four months ago but it hasn't helped at all. I'm still depressed and the medication doesn't let me function. I'm so tired like a zombie all the time. I need to switch to something else. Can anyone recommend an effective alternative for citalopram with little to no side effects? Is there even such a thing?

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