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Trazodone: definition, uses, interaction, and dosage

Reading time: 9 mins
Trazodone: definition, uses, interaction, and dosage

Trazodone is an antidepressant that healthcare professionals typically prescribe to treat major depressive disorder. It works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain to help regulate mood and alleviate depressive symptoms.

The dosage for trazodone varies per person, but typically the initial dose is around 150mg. This dosage might be increased or decreased under medical supervision. Common side effects of trazodone include headaches, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, drowsiness, and sleepiness.

Trazodone is primarily prescribed for the treatment of depression. It can help improve mood and reduce feelings of sadness. Additionally, trazodone is sometimes used off-label to manage other conditions, such as anxiety disorders and insomnia. 

Trazodone can interact with other medications or substances that increase serotonin levels, increase sedative effects, and medications affect how trazodone is metabolized.

What is trazodone?

Trazodone is an antidepressant that falls into a group of drugs called serotonin receptor antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs). According to a 2022 article published by, trazodone works to restore the balance of serotonin (a natural chemical) in the brain.

Additionally, trazodone belongs to the drug class of Phenylpiperazine antidepressants. These antidepressants act as serotonin (5-HT2) reuptake inhibitors and serotonin receptor blockers, which causes serotonin to stay in the body for longer. Trazodone is only available with a prescription from a medical healthcare professional and can come in tablet, capsule, or liquid form.

What is the other term for trazodone?

Trazodone is the generic name of the drug, which refers to the active ingredient, trazodone hydrochloride, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. However, this antidepressant is also commonly referred to by one of its brand names, Desyrel, Desyrel Dividose, or Oleptro. The brand name is trademarked by the pharmaceutical company and protected by a patent. 

How often is trazodone used?

Trazodone is a popular and widely prescribed medication. It ranks the 21st most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, and in 2020 over 26 million prescriptions of trazodone were issued, according to Statista.

Trazodone is a popular antidepressant, but it’s also commonly prescribed as a sleeping aid. In fact, 1 out of every 5 Americans who struggle with sleep is prescribed trazodone, according to Sunter in her 2022 article published on Sleepstation.

What is the purpose of trazodone?

The purpose of trazodone is to treat the symptoms of major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, or a combination of both. The drug works to restore the natural balance of serotonin in the brain, which leads to an improved mood, appetite, and energy level, according to a 2022 article published by Cleveland Clinic.

Can trazodone help with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Yes, trazodone can be used to alleviate sleep-related symptoms in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma can cause some to experience insomnia and others to have vivid nightmares about their traumatic event. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, trazodone reduces insomnia, promotes sleep through its sedative properties, and reduces nightmares often associated with PTSD.

Is trazodone effective in treating social anxiety disorder (SAD)?

No, there is no evidence to support trazodone being used to treat social anxiety disorder specifically. Although in their 2005 study published in the Polski Merkuriusz Lekarski Polish Medical Journal, Gałecki et al. concluded that trazodone could be effective in relieving symptoms of general anxiety during therapy of adjustment disorders.

How does trazodone work in the body?

Trazodone works to block serotonin type 2 receptors in the brain, which helps to increase the levels of serotonin in the brain. According to Shin and Saadabadi in their 2022 book published by the National Library of Medicine, trazodone also prevents the reabsorption of serotonin, allowing it to stay in the brain longer and have a greater effect.

Additionally, trazodone blocks histamine receptors which cause drowsiness and sedation, thus making it useful for treating insomnia. It has some effects on adrenoreceptors, although the exact details of this are not fully understood yet. Overall, trazodone works through multiple actions in the brain to help improve depression, but scientists are still studying exactly how it works.

Who is eligible to take trazodone?

pills on hand

Individuals who are over the age of 18, not allergic to medications, and generally in good physical health are eligible to take trazodone. It is mostly prescribed to address conditions such as depression, insomnia, or anxiety, as it has shown effectiveness in managing these conditions.

However, trazodone is only available with a prescription which requires a healthcare professional to conduct a thorough evaluation of the individual’s medical history, current medications, and individual circumstances.

Who is not eligible to take trazodone?

Individuals who have had recent issues with their heart, liver, or kidneys are not eligible to take trazodone. As well as individuals with epilepsy or those having electroconvulsive treatment as trazodone may increase the risk of having a seizure, according to the NHS

Those who have ever had self-harming thoughts should also be carefully considered by healthcare professionals since a trazodone overdose could be serious and life-threatening.

What is trazodone made of?

Each oral administration tablet contains 50mg or 100mg of trazodone hydrochloride, USP, as the active ingredient. In addition, each tablet also contains colloidal silicon dioxide, lactose anhydrous, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, and sodium starch glycolate as inactive ingredients.

What are the health benefits of trazodone?

Trazodone can be beneficial for one’s mental and physical health. The drug works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, thus curing some of the symptoms of major depressive disorder. Research has shown that trazodone can be effective in treating anxiety, according to a 2019 article, “Trazodone for Anxiety: Is It Effective?” published on Healthline.

At lower doses, trazodone can cause sleepiness or drowsiness. Thus the drug is sometimes prescribed to treat insomnia as well. In her 2023 article published on GoodRX Health, ​​Sheila McAdo confirms that trazodone may be effective for short-term sleeping issues.

What are the health risks of trazodone?

Trazodone has some health risks to consider, including serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome induced by trazodone is rare but not impossible. This fatal syndrome occurs when there is an excessive buildup of serotonin in the brain. Symptoms may include agitation, confusion, rapid heartbeat, fever, muscle stiffness, tremors, and in severe cases, seizures. 

Another possible health risk that trazodone poses is priapism, which is a persistent and painful erection that can last for several hours. Even though trazodone-induced priapism is rare, in their 2020 article published in the Investigative and Clinical Urology Journal, Shah et al. argue that urologists should better inform and educate trazodone users of priapism and what signs to look for.

What are the side effects of trazodone?

Trazodone presents short-term side effects, including headaches, drowsiness, constipation, nausea, dry mouth, and sleepiness. However, these are typically mild and should not cause concern. More serious side effects associated with trazodone include liver issues, severe constipation, increased susceptibility to bruising, and abnormal heartbeat. If a patient experiences any of these serious side effects, they should inform their healthcare provider and visit the nearest emergency room.

Does trazodone cause you to gain weight?

Yes, trazodone can cause weight gain, however, it is a rare side effect. Trazodone is more likely to cause weight loss than weight gain, according to Murphy in his 2023 article “Trazodone and weight gain,” published on If someone prescribed trazodone does experience weight gain, it is essential for them to discuss this with their healthcare provider instead of abruptly discontinuing its use.

What to know before you take trazodone?

different colored pills coming out of bottle.

Before starting trazodone, it is important for individuals to talk to their healthcare provider about any other medications or medical conditions, especially liver or kidney problems, heart disease, bipolar disorder, or a history of seizures. Trazodone may not be suitable for individuals with these conditions. 

It is important to inquire about any potential side effects and be able to recognize them, including drowsiness, headaches, and constipation. If the individual is pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if they are breastfeeding, they should inform their healthcare provider. Elderly individuals may also be more sensitive to the effects of trazodone, which could increase the risk of falls or other complications. 

Trazodone is an antidepressant, and like other antidepressants, it may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, especially in young adults and adolescents. If the person experiences changes in mood or behavior, or if they have suicidal thoughts while taking trazodone, they should seek immediate medical attention.

How to take Trazodone?

Listed below is important information on how to take trazodone.

  • Only take as directed by your doctor: When using trazodone, do not take more or less than what the doctor prescribed. The doctor will personalize the dosage for each patient based on their condition and medical history.
  • Don’t double dose: If a dose of trazodone is missed, it should be taken as soon as possible. However, if it is nearly time for the next scheduled dose, the missed dose should be skipped, and the regular dosing schedule should be resumed.
  • Keep consistent: Take the trazodone tablet at the same time every evening to stick to a routine. According to Mayo Clinic, the tablet should be swallowed whole and not crushed unless explicitly approved by a doctor.
  • Read the guidelines: The trazodone should come with medication guidelines in the packaging. This should be read thoroughly, and any confusion can be discussed with a pharmacist or doctor.

What is the best time to take trazodone?

Most healthcare professionals recommend taking trazodone 30 minutes before bedtime, as this gives the drug enough time to activate and promote sleep. Doctors will typically discourage patients from taking trazodone in the morning as it can cause daytime sleepiness, especially if the drug is prescribed for insomnia.

For individuals using trazodone to treat depression, higher doses may be prescribed, and it is typically recommended to take the medication twice a day. This involves taking one tablet in the morning and another in the evening, preferably after meals.

How often should I take trazodone?

Lower doses of trazodone are typically taken once a day at bedtime, while higher doses can be split into two tablets per day, once in the morning and once before bedtime. A doctor will provide instructions on the frequency and timing of medication usage, and it is always advisable to adhere to the doctor’s prescription.

What are the common dosage strengths of trazodone?

Trazodone tablets come in three strengths, 50mg, 100mg, and 150mg. According to the NHS, doctors generally prescribe a lower dosage for anxiety and insomnia (75mg) and a higher dosage for depression (150mg). 

The doctor will then modify the trazodone dosage based on the patient’s response. If there is no improvement observed, the dosage will be increased. In case the patient encounters side effects, the dosage may be reduced, or the doctor may propose switching to an alternative medication entirely.

According to, the maximum outpatient dosage for trazodone is 400mg, and the maximum for inpatients is 600mg.

What is the effect of missing a dose of trazodone?

Missing one dose will not cause any severe side effects, and it’s better to skip a dose rather than take a double dose in an attempt to compensate. However, skipping multiple doses of trazodone can cause it to stop working effectively or lose its effectiveness altogether, according to a 2020 article titled “Trazodone, Oral Tablet” published on Healthline.

How long does it take for trazodone to start working?

Trazodone can take up to 6 weeks to work completely in the body, according to the NHS. Many patients will feel worse in the first few weeks only to start to notice an improvement in their condition by weeks 4 to 6. 

Trazodone use should not be abruptly stopped without consulting a doctor. The doctor could prescribe a higher dose or move the patient to a different medication.

It’s important to consult a doctor before suddenly stopping the use of trazodone. The doctor may suggest adjusting the dosage or switching to a different medication.

What precautions should be taken when using trazodone?

There are a few precautions to take when using trazodone, especially in the first few weeks. Firstly, the individual should test how the drug affects their body in a safe environment. For some, trazodone might cause drowsiness and sedation, which means it would be dangerous to take trazodone before driving.

Take notes on any dizziness, lightheadedness, or nausea felt after taking trazodone. If it worsens over time, it would be best to discuss it with a doctor. Also, seek medical attention if any abnormal heartbeats are observed after taking trazodone, as stated by Mayo Clinic.

What should I refrain from while taking trazodone?

picture of a question mark made from pills.

​​While taking trazodone, you should refrain from starting any new medications without consulting a pharmacist or doctor. Some drugs, such as a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor, can cause serious or fatal drug interactions.

Other medications can interfere with the removal of trazodone from the body, potentially impacting its effectiveness. These medications include azole antifungals, HIV protease inhibitors, macrolide antibiotics, ritonavir, drugs used to treat seizures, and others. According to WebMD, taking other kinds of drugs (ecstasy, LSD, etc.) that increase serotonin levels increases the risk of developing serotonin syndrome or toxicity. 

Medications and substances with sedative effects should also be refrained from when taking trazodone, according to Ulrich in his 2022 article posted on GoodRX Health. This interaction could be dangerous and decrease alertness.

Where can you purchase trazodone?

Trazodone can be purchased through various means, the most popular being from a local pharmacy, online pharmacies or mail-order pharmacy services. Take your prescription to a nearby pharmacy or drug store to have it filled, where the pharmacist will give you the medication. 

There are also trustworthy online pharmacies that provide services for prescription drugs. Some pharmacies offer mail-order services, allowing you to order and receive your medication by mail. 

It’s crucial to remember that buying medications without a valid prescription is illegal and dangerous. Only obtain trazodone through legal and authorized channels with an authentic prescription to ensure your safety.

How long is trazodone typically prescribed for?

Typically trazodone is prescribed for six months after one depressive episode to see and feel a significant difference. However, according to the NHS, if an individual experiences multiple episodes, a doctor will prescribe trazodone for a longer period. There do not seem to be any lasting effects after months or years of trazodone use.

What is the difference between trazodone and Ambien?

pills in a spoon.

When comparing trazodone oral vs. Ambien Oral, both are used to treat sleep-related issues, but they have key differences that distinguish them. Trazodone and Ambien have different mechanisms of action and are prescribed for different conditions.

Ambien (zolpidem) is a sedative drug that is prescribed mainly for the treatment of sleeping issues, such as insomnia. According to American Addiction Centers, Ambien is typically prescribed for short periods due to its mechanism of action, which closely resembles that of stronger tranquilizers and sedatives such as benzodiazepines (Xanax or Valium). Ambien works quickly and does not remain in the body for very long.

On the other hand, trazodone is an antidepressant that is mostly prescribed to treat depression. However, it is also known to have sedative effects and is sometimes prescribed for sleep issues such as insomnia. Even so, it has a completely different mechanism of action than Ambien. Trazodone works to increase the serotonin levels in the brain as well as block neurons from reabsorbing serotonin once it has been released, causing serotonin to stay in the central nervous system for longer.

Whether it’s trazodone vs. Ambien, a medical professional such as a doctor or pharmacist will recommend and prescribe the best option to treat a patient’s specific symptoms and medical circumstances.