At times, a doctor will prescribe trazodone for off-label usage regarding anxiety and insomnia. It technically is not FDA-approved to treat those specific disorders, but it does help reduce some of the symptoms. Because of this fact, a doctor will sometimes prescribe the drug off-label so the patient can benefit from it.3
Trazodone is primarily used to treat major depressive disorder. However, it has also been used to successfully treat anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia.4
Normally, a doctor will try out other antidepressants before switching to trazodone. This drug helps a person feel sleepy or tired. Doctors will prescribe it for someone before bed to treat issues like poor sleep, trouble concentrating, or depressed moods.5
Because trazodone helps calm people down, it can be prescribed to help a person that struggles with anxiety. Trazodone inhibits two different kinds of serotonin receptors inside of the brain, which leads to an increase in the production of serotonin within the brain.6
Insomnia is a sleep disorder where someone struggles with falling asleep. Because trazodone helps some feel sleepy and relaxed by blocking the chemicals that interact with serotonin in the brain, doctors may prescribe the drug for someone who struggles with insomnia. It can help the patient fall asleep easier or relax at night.7
Trazodone and Ambien are used to treat different things. Trazodone is used to treat major depressive disorder. Ambien is used to treat insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Trazodone works by balancing the amount of serotonin inside of the brain while Ambien produces a calming effect by sedating the brain. Both can have similar effects by decreasing a person’s energy level. However, Ambien specifically helps a person fall asleep faster, while better sleep is simply a side effect of trazodone.9
Medical professionals will use trazodone off-label to treat anxiety and insomnia. Although the FDA has not approved the drug through clinical trials, trazodone has been used repeatedly to help patients struggling with these disorders when other methods are not working.
When a doctor prescribes trazodone for sleep disorders like insomnia, they normally only prescribe between 25 mg and 100 mg. So far, research has shown that lower dosages tend to reduce any negative side effects of the drug, so most doctors try to stay as close to 25 mg as possible.
Trazodone is a safe drug that is approved by the FDA to treat depression. It has gone through several clinical trials, deeming it as a safe substance, which is why doctors are willing to prescribe it off-label.
There are multiple benefits to using trazodone as a sleep aid. It is cheap compared to other drugs that specifically help insomnia, and it is not considered to be extremely addictive. Trazodone can help prevent mental decline and can be better for people with sleep apnea.10 Because of this aspect, doctors might be more willing to prescribe it over other medications like Xanax and Valium, which are also both more addictive.
One of the reasons that doctors are sometimes hesitant to prescribe trazodone, especially in larger doses, is that it can cause major side effects. These effects can vary in severity and not all people will experience them.
Several different long-term effects can come into place when someone is using this substance. One of the major issues is thoughts of suicide, which tends to be more common in younger people.10 A person might also develop serotonin syndrome, which happens when someone has too much serotonin built up inside of their body. An individual could struggle with the following symptoms as well:10
It is important to be careful with what substances an individual mixes trazodone with. Mixing different types of drugs can increase the side effects and possibly lead to fatality.
Mixing trazodone with prescription drugs that also raise serotonin levels can drastically increase a person’s risk of developing serotonin syndrome. In addition, if an individual mixes trazodone with other anti-depressants, it can drastically increase the drug’s side effects.
If someone mixes trazodone with stimulants or depressants, the different substances could cancel out each other’s side effects or create new ones, making it easier to suffer from overdose.11
One of the minor effects that could occur from mixing substances is severe drowsiness. If an individual mixes trazodone with dangerous substances such as marijuana, alcohol, and other sleep medicines, they will be at a higher risk of severe drowsiness not just at night but throughout the day.11
Trazodone is currently considered a non-addictive drug. However, a person can still become dependent on this medication after taking it for long periods. Due to this dependence, someone can suffer from trazodone withdrawal once they stop taking the drug. Because of this aspect, a person should always talk to a health care professional before they quit using trazodone.
There are multiple side effects of trazodone dependence and withdrawal. Normally, a patient will start to experience the following after going a period without the drug:12
These trazodone withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person.
There are risks to using trazodone, especially over a long time. Normally, medical professionals will try to taper the dosage over time to avoid some of the long-lasting side effects such as:
Normally, trazodone overdose is not life-threatening, but there is still is a risk involved in taking the drug. Trazodone overdose often leads to serotonin syndrome, which can have long-term effects. If you or a loved one starts to experience seizures, arrhythmia, unconsciousness, or a high fever, seek medical help immediately. Most symptoms of trazodone overdose include:12
Trazodone is a prescription antidepressant that has the potential to treat anxiety and insomnia. Doctors might prescribe it off-label currently to treat those disorders because it is inexpensive and not addictive. If you have any questions about trazodone, speak to your primary care physician.