Trazodone Addiction — Abuse And Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on February 12, 2021

Trazodone is a prescription drug that is used to treat major depressive disorder, insomnia, and other conditions. When abused, trazodone may lead to physical dependence and addiction. Overcoming trazodone addiction may require substance abuse treatment.

Trazodone Abuse, Addiction, And Treatment Options

Trazodone is a prescription drug that is FDA-approved to treat depression. It is also commonly prescribed for sleep disorders like insomnia.

It works in the body by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain, which is a brain chemical that stabilizes mood and wellbeing.

Trazodone may be prescribed under the following brand names:

  • Desyrel
  • Oleptro
  • Trialodine

Like any illicit or prescription drug, trazodone can be abused for its effects. When misused, trazodone may increase the risk for certain health risks, such as drug overdose, suicidal thoughts, and addiction.

Trazodone is more likely to be abused with other drugs than on its own. Mixing trazodone with other drugs can be very dangerous, and increases the risk for dangerous and potentially life-threatening health consequences.

Trazodone: Uses And Side Effects

Trazodone belongs to a class of prescription medications known as serotonin modulators, which are primarily prescribed as antidepressants.

For this reason, the primary use of trazodone is for treating depression, similar to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac.

Trazodone is also prescribed off-label to treat insomnia, anxiety, schizophrenia, and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal due to its ability to sedate the body. When taken as a sleep aid, trazodone may cause drowsiness, dizziness, and impair motor function.

Side effects of trazodone may include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • difficulty with concentration and memory
  • confusion
  • nightmares
  • sweating
  • changes in appetite or weight
  • tingling of the arms, legs, hands, or feet

Other serious side effects may occur after taking trazodone. Talk to your doctor if you experience difficulty breathing, chest pain, or unusual bleeding or bruising after taking trazodone.

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Chronic use of trazodone may lead to drug tolerance and dependence. This can cause withdrawal symptoms with reduced or stopped use. Developing a tolerance to trazodone may require that you increase your dose over time to feel the desired effect.

How Is Trazodone Abused?

Trazodone is generally considered to have a low abuse potential. This means it is not a common drug of abuse.

However, it may be abused with other drugs, or misused by individuals who have other risk factors for substance abuse.

Trazodone may be abused in the following ways:

One of the reasons people misuse trazodone is to accelerate its sedative effects. In small or high doses, trazodone may cause drowsiness and sleepiness.

Although it interacts with neurotransmitters associated with addiction, people do not often crave trazodone the same way they might crave more addictive drugs such as opioids, heroin, and cocaine.

Even so, those who take trazodone can become dependent on it with excessive or long-term use.

Dangers Of Trazodone Abuse

Abusing trazodone, especially with other drugs, can lead to dangerous and potentially life-threatening health consequences.

Trazodone abuse can also disrupt your normal way of life, by worsening sleep disorders, straining relationships, and making it difficult to think about anything beyond your drug use.

Dangers of trazodone abuse can include:

  • dependence
  • drug addiction
  • risk of polysubstance abuse
  • difficulty sleeping
  • suicidal thoughts
  • serotonin syndrome (if use is suddenly stopped)
  • overdose

Dangers and potential side effects of trazodone misuse may depend on personal factors, such as the dose taken, frequency of use, how long you’ve been misusing it, and whether you’ve mixed trazodone with other drugs.

Trazodone Overdose: Signs And Symptoms

Drug overdose occurs when you’ve taken too much of one or more drugs at once. Taking an excessive dose of trazodone, or mixing it with other drugs, can lead to overdose.

To avoid overdose, it’s important to take trazodone exactly as prescribed by a healthcare provider.

Signs and symptoms of trazodone overdose include:

  • difficulty breathing
  • shallow or stopped breathing
  • loss of consciousness
  • low blood pressure
  • painful and long-lasting erection (priapism)
  • chest pain
  • slow heart rate
  • lack of coordination
  • dizziness
  • seizures
  • coma

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms after taking trazodone, call 9-1-1 or your nearest emergency department right away. Severe side effects of an overdose can be deadly without medical treatment.

Trazodone Withdrawal

Trazodone is a long-term medication that may be taken by people for weeks, months, or years. Even so, people who take trazodone for an extended amount of time may develop a tolerance to their initial dose and become dependent on trazodone.

Once dependent on trazodone, it can be more difficult to stop taking it. If you’ve been taking trazodone for more than a few weeks, do not stop taking it without first talking to a doctor.

Quitting trazodone all at once may lead to highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, as well as a dangerous condition known as serotonin discontinuation syndrome. This occurs when your body has become used to the presence of trazodone in your system.

Symptoms of serotonin syndrome may include:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • flu-like symptoms
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness
  • decreased balance and coordination
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep

If you’ve been taking trazodone long-term, or abusing it, a doctor can recommend the best way to safely reduce your dose. This may involve gradually tapering your dose or beginning a detox program.

Read more about how to detox from trazodone

Trazodone Abuse And Addiction Treatment Options

Most people who abuse trazodone for non-medical purposes also misuse it with other addictive drugs. This is known as polysubstance abuse.

Trazodone abuse and addiction is treatable and may require treatment at multiple levels of care.

Treatment options for trazodone abuse and addiction include:

  • detoxification
  • inpatient treatment
  • residential rehab
  • partial hospitalization/day treatment
  • intensive outpatient
  • outpatient programs
  • mental health counseling

Behavioral therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) are commonly recommended for treating substance use disorders and co-occurring disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Find Help For A Trazodone Addiction

If you have severe addiction or health problems as a result of your trazodone use, inpatient rehab at a treatment center may be recommended.

The best way to learn which type of treatment may be needed for you or a loved one is to consult a medical professional.

Recovery from drug abuse is possible. For more information about treatment programs for trazodone abuse, call our helpline today.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on February 12, 2021
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