Uses and Side Effects of Citalopram

Citalopram is an antidepressant. It's important to understand the effects of citalopram if you're thinking about taking it.
Uses and Side Effects of Citalopram

Last update: 24 February, 2021

Citalopram is an antidepressant medicine that belongs to the serotonin reuptake inhibitors family (SSRIs). This medicine was synthesized in 1989. Also, it’s an antidepressant that comes from phenylbutylamine. Keep reading to learn more about the uses and side effects of citalopram.

Pharmacokinetics: what happens to citalopram in the body?

Woman taking pills.

Pharmacokinetics includes the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination processes of a drug. Patients take citalopram orally and it absorbs into the body well. In addition, it has a bioavailability of 80%. This means that 80% of the administered dose will be available to trigger the action. 

It reaches its maximum concentration in plasma four hours after administration. Also, since food doesn’t affect this medicine’s absorption, it can be taken with food.

In terms of distribution, this medication requires plasma proteins to be spread throughout the body. Specifically, it’s about 80% bound to these molecules. Therefore, you have to be careful if you’re taking it with other drugs that are also highly bound to plasma proteins. This is because they can interact and trigger a toxic combination. 

Lastly, the liver metabolizes most of the dose. Then, the body eliminates approximately 65% through feces and 35% through urine.

Also, it’s important to note that elderly patients may have organs in poor condition. This will increase the time it takes for the drug to metabolize and for the body to eliminate it. Because of that, they may need to reduce their dosage.

What are citralopram’s uses?

This antidepressant, in addition to being used for treating anxiety, has been approved to fight other diseases. Different studies show its uses, including:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

Although people take this drug to treat these disorders, the reality is that doctors also prescribe it for other conditions. For example, they may prescribe it to treat anxiety, alcoholism, or eating disorders.

How does citalopram work in the body?

Some pills.

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, citalopram is an antidepressant. It owes its action to its ability to inhibit the reuptake of serotonin in the central nervous system. In addition, like other medications in its family, this antidepressant has almost no effect on other neurotransmitters. That’s because it exhibits a selective agent.

This aspect of the drug decreases the risk of adverse side effects. For example, this drug doesn’t cause drowsiness, has few anticholinergic effects, and has fewer cardiovascular effects than other types of antidepressants.

Although citalopram’s course of action isn’t completely known, experts believe that it inhibits the reuptake of serotonin in the neuron membrane. Serotonin is a fundamental neurotransmitter for the central nervous system. It controls many states of body, including:

  • State of mind: Experts say that it’s the substance of happiness. In depressive states this neurotransmitter decreases. Therefore, by inhibiting its reuptake, its concentration in the synaptic space increases which increases its effects.
  • Anger and aggression.
  • Appetite: for this reason, doctors prescribe it for some eating disorders, as we mentioned above.
  • Memory and attention. 
  • Sexuality.

Side effects of Citalopram

Doctor writing prescription.

Citalopram has fewer and less severe adverse side effects than other antidepressant medications, such as tricyclic antidepressants. However, this drug can still cause unwanted reactions. That’s why it’s important to take these side effects into account when starting treatment with it.

The most common side effects are:

  • Sickness
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Stomach ache 
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting


Citalopram blocks the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin in neurons. As a consequence, this molecule’s levels increase which enhances its actions.

Although it has fewer side effects than other antidepressants, it can still cause adverse effects that you should know about. So, if you feel any symptoms after starting treatment with this medicine, don’t hesitate to tell your doctor immediately.

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