Trazodone (Desyrel) is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved antidepressant medication that interacts with a naturally occurring chemical in the body called serotonin.
This medication is not a one of the controlled substances.
A health care provider will prescribe trazodone for major depressive disorder or, in less common situations, schizophrenia.
Trazodone has also been used off-label to treat anxiety disorder.
However, one of the common side effects of trazodone is sedation, so a prescribing medical professional can prescribe low-dose trazodone as a sleep aid.
Why Trazodone Is Not A Controlled Substance
Trazodone is not a controlled substance, because it does not fit into the abuse potential of the five schedules of controlled substances.
Drugs that the federal government regulates are organized into five schedules. The abuse potential for drugs decreases through the schedule.
Schedule I drugs are the most addictive with no medical purpose, Schedule II drugs are the most addictive with a medical purpose, and Schedule V drugs are the least addictive.
Since the abuse potential of trazodone’s medical use doesn’t even give it a ranking in Schedule V, it is not a controlled substance.
What Class Of Drugs Does Trazodone Belong To?
Trazodone is an antidepressant in a class of prescription drugs called serotonin modulators. These drugs perform two actions.
They modulate serotonin by increasing production through its neurotransmitter, but they also inhibit serotonin reuptake.
Reuptake is when some of the serotonin that was sent to the receptors leaves and returns the serotonin to the neuron that released it.
Many antidepressants work on the principle described above and are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Why Trazodone Is A Risk For Drug Abuse
Trazodone is not commonly abused as a drug, but it is possible to do so. Because trazodone has a sedative effect, the aim of abusing it would probably be to increase the onset rate and intensity of that effect.
Trazodone abuse usually revolves around taking more of the drug than prescribed.
However, there are anecdotal reports of people snorting trazodone, which would indicate a desire for a faster and more intense onset.
Is It Safe To Use Trazodone To Treat Depression?
In spite of its abuse potential (which is low), trazodone is safe to use for depression. Most doses start at 150 mg a day and increase from there given appropriate medical advice.
Common side effects include:
- dry mouth
- intense sleepiness
Because of the side effect of drowsiness, trazodone isn’t often prescribed for depression any more (though it is occasionally prescribed to treat schizophrenia).
It is, however, prescribed off-label to treat insomnia and help people go to sleep.
How Trazodone Is Different From Other Sleeping Pills
Trazodone is different from other sleep aids in that sleepiness is a side effect of its intended purpose. The same is true for another older antidepressant called doxepin.
This means that trazodone does interact directly with the sleep cycle and typically does not cause a sleep aid “hangover” (daytime drowsiness) due to its short half-life.
Other prescription sleep aids like Ambien or Lunesta are in a class called sedative-hypnotics while still others are benzodiazepines.
Over-the-counter sleep aids use antihistamine or come as supplements using melatonin or tryptophan.
Dangers Of Abusing Trazodone
While it is tempting to think that trazodone abuse has no ramifications because it is not like opioids such as fentanyl, it does come with dangers.
Taking too much of a serotonin modulator can cause serotonin syndrome in which your body’s serotonin levels are too high.
Symptoms of serotonin syndrome can include:
- high blood pressure
- elevated heart rate
- muscle twitching
- dilated pupils
Prescription Drug Abuse Treatment Services
Trazodone abuse is treatable.
Treatment centers across the nation provide treatment options for prescription medication abuse and can help you with co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse problems.
Treatment options for prescription drug abuse can include:
- inpatient treatment
- outpatient treatment
- management of withdrawal symptoms
- evidence-based therapy
Find Treatment For Trazodone Abuse
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- Clinical Pharmacology
- Drug Enforcement Administration
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus
- National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus