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What Is Citalopram?

Citalopram is an antidepressant medication that affects neurotransmitters, the chemicals that nerves within the brain use to communicate with each other. Neurotransmitters are manufactured and released by nerves and then travel and attach to nearby nerves. Therefore, neurotransmitters can be thought of as the communication system of the brain. Many experts believe that an imbalance among neurotransmitters is the cause of depression. Citalopram works by preventing the uptake of one neurotransmitter, serotonin, by nerve cells after it has been released. Also, citalopram is in the class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class that also contains fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).

Before taking this medicine

You should not use this medicine if you are allergic to citalopram or escitalopram (Lexapro), or if you also take pimozide. Furthermore, do not use citalopram if you have used an MAO inhibitor in the past 2 weeks. A dangerous drug interaction could occur. MAO inhibitors include isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue injection, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, tranylcypromine, and others.

To make sure citalopram is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:


Citalopram is used to treat depression. It may improve your energy level and feelings of well-being. Citalopram is known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This medication works by helping to restore the balance of a certain natural substance (serotonin) in the brain.

Citalopram is approved for treating depression. It is also used off-label for treating:

  • Alcoholism
  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

How should I use this drug?

Take this medicine by mouth with a glass of water. Always follow the directions on the prescription label. You can take it with or without food. Take your medicine at regular intervals and do not take your medicine more often than directed. Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly except upon the advice of your doctor. Stopping this medicine too quickly may cause serious side effects or your condition may worsen. Be sure to read this information on the box carefully. Talk to your pediatrician regarding the use of this medicine in children. Special care may be needed. Patients over 60 years old may have a stronger reaction and need a smaller dose.

Citalopram Warnings

The FDA requires citalopram to carry a black-box warning because some children, teenagers, and young adults who took antidepressants such as citalopram during clinical studies had suicidal thoughts and behavior. It is advised that children under 18 shouldn’t take citalopram unless a doctor decides it’s the best option. The FDA also issued a Safety Announcement in 2012 recommending that citalopram not be prescribed at doses greater than 40 milligrams a day because of the increased risk potentially dangerous abnormalities in the electrical activity of the heart.

Children who do take citalopram may be more sensitive to its side effects especially appetite and weight loss. Your doctor will closely monitor both. Citalopram may cause problems in newborns following delivery if it is taken during the last months of pregnancy.

What are the side effects of citalopram?

The most common side effects associated with citalopram are:

Side effects, drug interactions, warnings and precautions, and patient safety information should be reviewed prior to taking any medication. Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children and never share your medicines with others. Also, use citalopram only for the indication prescribed. Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.