Trazodone, an atypical antidepressant, is used to treat major depressive disorder. Similar to other medications, it comes with both short and long-term side effects, most of which are rare and are outweighed by the benefits of the drug. However, those who misuse or get addicted to trazodone may be at an increased risk for long-term complications.

This article will explore the effects of trazodone. You will learn:

  • What trazodone is and how it works
  • About the most common side effects
  • The potential long-term risks
  • Trazodone’s addiction and overdose potential

What is Trazodone?

Trazodone is an antidepressant medication that may be prescribed under the brand names Desyrel, Dividose, or Oleptro. It is a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI) that may be used to treat major depressive disorder. It is also used off-label in the treatment of insomnia and alcohol dependence.

SARIs like trazodone work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin in the brain, thereby increasing the levels of serotonin available. Additionally, they also act as antagonists at certain serotonin receptors, regulating serotonin activity in the brain. This dual mechanism of action helps alleviate symptoms of depression by improving serotonin neurotransmission. Trazodone can also increase dopamine and norepinephrine, additional neurotransmitters that play a role in mood regulation.

Trazodone is a generally safe medication with a low abuse profile. However, it does carry a risk of misuse, physical dependence, and overdose.

Common Side Effects of Trazodone

Like all medications, trazodone may cause side effects. These include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Blurry vision
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Muscle pain
  • Nightmares

In some individuals, trazodone can cause worsened depression symptoms and suicidal ideations. If you are taking trazodone and experience any unwanted side effects, speak with your doctor.

Is it Safe to Take Trazodone Long Term?

Some people take trazodone to treat depression and anxiety, and they can do so safely. When taken as prescribed, trazodone has not been found to cause any harmful long-term effects. If you are prescribed trazodone and don’t experience any harmful effects when you take it, you don’t need to be worried about the long-term risks.

Long-Term Side Effects of Trazodone Use

Although trazodone can be safe and effective for long-term use, it should only be used as directed by a licensed healthcare provider. People who abuse trazodone for extended periods of time may be at a heightened risk of more intense, sometimes dangerous side effects.

Potential long-term side effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Fainting
  • Tremors
  • Poor coordination
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Heart rate abnormalities

Trazodone misuse can increase the risk for serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by dangerously high levels of serotonin in the brain. Severe cases may lead to seizures, unconsciousness, and even death if left untreated.

Long-term trazodone use at high doses has also been linked to decreased serum sodium levels, or hyponatremia. This can cause headaches, difficulty concentrating, confusion, weakness, and increased fall risk.

Additional rare, but possible long-term risks include:

  • Short-term memory problems
  • Poor arm muscle endurance
  • Issues with verbal learning
  • Equilibrium disruption (poor balance and stability)

When medications like trazodone are prescribed by a doctor and taken as directed, the benefits generally outweigh the risks. However, if you are abusing trazodone by taking more than prescribed or mixing it with other substances to enhance mind-altering effects, you are putting your physical and mental health at risk.

Can You Overdose on Trazodone?

Taking too much trazodone at once can be harmful and may lead to an overdose. Symptoms of trazodone overdose are:

  • Low blood pressure (fainting)
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle twitching
  • Chest pain
  • Tremors
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma

The risk of overdose is increased when trazodone is mixed with alcohol, opioids, sedatives, or barbiturates. Seek emergency medical attention right away if you suspect a drug overdose.

Is Trazodone Addictive?

Even though trazodone is designed as a long-term medication, it can still result in physical dependence. While people often associate physical dependence with addiction, not everyone who is dependent on trazodone is addicted to it. Like other antidepressants, abruptly stopping them can result in withdrawal symptoms known as antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.

Symptoms of trazodone withdrawal include:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Brain zaps or shock-like sensations
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts

Withdrawal symptoms can last for 1-2 weeks but can be avoided by gradually tapering off the medication while under the close guidance of a medical professional. If you are prescribed trazodone, do not stop taking it unless your doctor advises you to do so.

When misused, taken in higher doses, or without a prescription, trazodone can be addictive. People may abuse it for its mildly sedating effects, or mix it with other drugs to enhance their effects. Those struggling with trazodone addiction can get treatment at a licensed drug and alcohol rehab facility.

Get Help Today

If you or a loved one are struggling with prescription drug abuse, know that there is help available. At First Step Behavioral Health, we focus on the physiological rebalancing of the individual through medical, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual care. By providing each patient with tailored care on an individual basis, we help patients discover the steps they need to take to achieve lasting change.

To learn more about our treatment programs or get started with a confidential, risk-free assessment, please contact us today.


  1. National Institute of Health (NIH): Trazodone
  2. Annals of General Psychiatry: Role of trazodone in treatment of major depressive disorder: an update
  3. Journal of Gerontology and Geriatrics: Trazodone: a multifunctional antidepressant. Evaluation of its properties and real-world use
  4. National Institute of Health (NIH): Cognitive, Psychomotor, and Polysomnographic Effects of Trazodone in Primary Insomniacs
  5. National Institute of Health (NIH): Trazodone Overdose Manifesting as Hypotension and QT Prolongation
  6. American Academy of Family Physicians: Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome

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