What is citalopram?
Citalopram (sit-ALLO-pram) is an antidepressant of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) class. It’s often used to treat depression and/or anxiety and is sometimes used for panic attacks.
- Citalopram was first synthesised in 1972 by scientists at the Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck.
- In 2017, over 14 million items of citalopram were prescribed in the UK (source: openprescribing.net).
- Citalopram is not a banned substance in sport, meaning it doesn’t affect athletic performance.
- The brand name for citalopram is Cipramil.
How does citalopram work?
As a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), citalopram helps to restore the balance of serotonin in the brain. It’s thought that low serotonin levels may contribute to depression, and citalopram counters this by boosting these levels.
The effects of citalopram should be seen at least two weeks after starting treatment.
Citalopram is only available on prescription, and comes as tablets or oral drops.
Citalopram dosage information
Citalopram comes as 10mg, 20mg and 40mg tablets, and also as 40mg/ml oral drops.
The usual starting dose for an adult is 20mg a day, although you may start at a lower dose and gradually increase to the maximum dose of 40mg. If you are over 65 or have liver problems, 20mg is the maximum recommended dose.
Dosage can vary from person to person, and your GP will prescribe you with the dose that will best alleviate your symptoms or condition.
How to take citalopram
Take citalopram once a day. You can take it with or without food.
Citalopram can be taken at any time of the day. Just make sure you stick to the same time every day. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s best to take it in the morning.
Do not crush, break or chew the tablets – take them whole with a glass of water. If you were prescribed Citalopram oral drops, you should mix them with water, orange juice, or apple juice before taking.
If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as possible unless it’s almost time for your next dose. Do not take two doses together. Using Echo can help you keep on top of your doses.
What are the side effects of citalopram?
As an SSRI, citalopram has fewer unwanted effects than older antidepressants. However, it’s still possible for some people to experience side effects.
Common side effects include:
- Drowsiness and fatigue
- Sleep problems such as insomnia
- Mild nausea, diarrhoea, constipation or stomach upset
- Agitation, anxiety, nervousness
- Tremor, disturbance in attention
- Decreased sex drive
- Increased sweating or urination
If you have any of the following serious side effects, call your GP immediately:
- Fast or irregular heartbeat, seizures, fainting
- Thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life
- Weight changes without any reasons
- Changes in your period