Celexa (Citalopram) Medication Profile

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Celexa (citalopram) is a medication the drug family known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) used to treat depression. These drugs work by making more of the brain hormone serotonin available between nerve cells, which has been shown to ease depression.

Benefits of Celexa

Compared to the other drugs in its class, Celexa has a relatively high bioavailability (80 percent), meaning a lower dose can be taken to achieve the same level in the bloodstream as, for example, Paxil (paroxetine), whose bioavailability is only 50 percent.

Luvox (fluvoxamine) has a higher bioavailability score than Celexa—95 percent—but has far more potential for drug interactions than Celexa, as does Prozac (fluoxetine).

Finally, the half-life of Celexa is about 1.5 days, which means that if you stop taking it abruptly, it takes 36 hours for half of it to clear out of your system, another 36 hours for half of what's left to clear, etc. Medications with shorter half-lives, which include Luvox, Paxil, and Zoloft (sertraline) are more likely to cause SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome if stopped suddenly, while Prozac, with a 9.3-day half-life, takes over a month to get out of one's system.

Precautions and Warnings

Celexa may cause drowsiness, so you should not drive or operate machinery until you know how you will react to it. People taking Celexa are also advised not to drink alcohol. In addition:

  • As with other antidepressants, allow two weeks between starting or stopping Celexa and stopping or starting a​ MAOI antidepressant.
  • Be aware that taking any SSRI antidepressant with a triptan medication for migraines may cause a serious condition called Serotonin Syndrome. See FDA Issues Advisory on SSRIs/SSNRIs and Migraine Meds.
  • Fatal cases of Serotonin Syndrome have been reported when Celexa is mixed with the antibiotic Zyvox (linezolid).
  • Do not stop taking Celexa all at once unless your doctor approves due to serious side effects. The dose should be tapered off gradually.
  • Celexa (and other antidepressants) carries a slight risk of causing bleeding problems, especially if taken with aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, Coumadin (warfarin) or other drugs that affect bleeding. (For more, see Antidepressants and Abnormal Bleeding.)
  • Any antidepressant may induce mania in patients with bipolar disorder.
  • Celexa carries the same black box warning as other antidepressants.
  • In July 2006 the Food and Drug Administration released a warning that babies whose mothers took SSRI antidepressants late in pregnancy were 6 times more likely to have a serious condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). The FDA also notes that babies delivered to mothers taking Celexa late in pregnancy have developed problems such as difficulty breathing and feeding. Thus, if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it is essential that you discuss your medications with all your doctors.

Citalopram Side Effects

Check with your doctor if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome:

More common: drowsiness; dryness of mouth; nausea; trouble in sleeping;

Less common: Abdominal pain; anxiety; change in sense of taste; diarrhea; gas; headache; heartburn; increased sweating; increased yawning; loss of appetite; pain in muscles or joints; stuffy or runny nose; tingling, burning, or prickly feelings on skin; tooth grinding; trembling or shaking; unusual increase or decrease in weight; unusual tiredness or weakness; vomiting; watering of mouth;

Notify Doctor Immediately:

More common: Decrease in sexual desire or ability;

Less common: Agitation; blurred vision; confusion; fever; increase in frequency of urination or amount of urine produced; lack of emotion; loss of memory; menstrual changes; skin rash or itching; trouble in breathing;

Rare: Bleeding gums; breast tenderness or enlargement or unusual secretion of milk (in females); dizziness or fainting; irregular heartbeat; low blood sodium (confusion, convulsions [seizures], drowsiness, dryness of mouth, increased thirst, lack of energy); mood or mental changes; nose bleed; painful urination; purple or red spots on skin; sore throat, fever, and chills; red or irritated eyes; redness, tenderness, itching, burning, or peeling of skin; or

Signs of serotonin syndrome: agitation, confusion, diarrhea, fever, overactive reflexes, poor coordination, restlessness, shivering, sweating, talking or acting with excitement you cannot control, trembling or shaking, twitching); trouble in holding or releasing urine; unusual or sudden body or facial movements or postures;

Celexa Withdrawal Side Effects - Always Notify Doctor:

Anxiety; dizziness; nervousness; trembling or shaking;

Celexa Overdose Effects - Notify Doctor Immediately:

More Common: Dizziness; drowsiness; fast heartbeat; nausea; sweating; trembling or shaking; vomiting;

Rare: Bluish-colored skin or lips; confusion; convulsions (seizures); coma; deep or fast breathing with dizziness; fainting; general feeling of discomfort or illness; loss of memory; muscle pain; slow or irregular heartbeat; weakness;

Other side effects not listed above may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other symptoms, check with your doctor.


  • MedlinePlus (2007). Citalopram (Systemic)
  • US Food and Drug Administration (2006). Patient Information Sheet - Citalopram Hydrobromide (marketed as Celexa)
  • Internet Mental Health (1999). Citalopram hydrobromide. 
  • Wilson, E.A. (2006). "The Work of Antidepressants: Preliminary Notes on How to Build an Alliance Between Feminism and Psychopharmacology." BioSocieties (2006), 1, 125-131.
  • Internet Mental Health (nd). Fluoxetine. 
  • The Antidepressant Web (nd). Withdrawal and related problems with SSRIs.