Trazodone is a medication that’s used primarily to treat depression, but it is also used as a sleep aid, and it has several off-label uses as well. It’s available as an immediate-release generic tablet, and there’s also an extended-release brand name version of trazodone called Oleptro.

This prescription drug is classified as an antidepressant, but more specifically as an atypical antidepressant because it works on the brain in a different way than most of these other types of drugs.

It’s believed trazodone affects the serotonin activity in the brain and restores the balance of this neurotransmitter so that symptoms related to depression are relieved.

Before taking any medication, it’s essential to know about the side effects. The following provides an overview of trazodone effects, including trazodone long-term effects, and trazodone side effects in the elderly.

Trazodone Effects

First, there are some black box warnings issued by the FDA that are part of the trazodone effects to know about.

Trazodone, as well as other drugs used in the treatment of depression, can cause an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and this risk is highest for children, teens, and young adults. It usually is highest in the first few months of someone taking it.

There is also a black box warning about something called serotonin syndrome, which can be life-threatening. With serotonin syndrome, someone who takes multiple medicines used to increase the availability of serotonin may experience side effects like hallucinations and agitation, and it can be life-threatening in some cases.

More common trazodone effects can include feeling drowsy or dizzy, as well as experiencing constipation or blurry vision. For the most part, these trazodone effects will subside in most people within a few days or maybe a few weeks, but if they don’t patients are instructed to contact their doctor.

Serious possible side effects can include thoughts of suicide or dying, suicide attempts, anxiety that’s new or gets worse, feeling restless or agitated, insomnia, irritability or aggression. Also possible are vision problems, low blood pressure, unusual bleeding or bruising and an irregular or fast heartbeat.

While there are possible side effects of trazodone, if your physician prescribes it, it’s because they believe the benefits outweigh these effects. Some of the benefits of trazodone include the fact that since it’s generic it’s relatively low-cost, it’s effective, and it can work well even when administered at a low dose.

It’s also a non-controlled substance, as compared to most other sleeping pills, which are classified as a controlled substance. Trazodone can also be used to treat symptoms of multiple conditions simultaneously.

Trazodone Long-Term Effects

Regarding trazodone long-term effects, it’s considered a relatively safe substance. There aren’t currently believed to be any serious trazodone long-term effects on the brain from repeated use, which is one of the reasons it is preferred over other antidepressants and sleep aids in some cases.

Trazodone Side Effects in the Elderly

What about trazodone side effects in the elderly? With many drugs, there are specific warnings about their use in elderly patients, because certain organs and systems may not work as well in these patients as they do in younger people. This can cause higher risks of side effects.

Trazodone side effects in the elderly are somewhat lower however than with other similar drugs.

One consideration to keep in mind with trazodone side effects in the elderly is kidney function. Kidney functionality may be impaired in older patients, so it may mean that it takes them longer to process a medicine like trazodone. This means that older patients should take lower doses and they may still have a higher risk of certain side effects including a condition called hyponatremia, which means you have low salt levels in your blood.

If a physician prescribes trazodone to an elderly patient, they will usually monitor them to ensure that the side effects are minimal.

It’s not just elderly patients who are monitored when they’re prescribed a drug like trazodone, however. Doctors will also do certain things when someone is on this medicine including giving regular eye exams if you’re believed to be at risk for something called angle closure glaucoma, and you’ll also be monitored for any new or changing mental health or behavioral side effects.

Summing Up—Side Effects of Trazodone

Trazodone is a generic antidepressant, and it has many of the same potential side effects as other drugs like it. Two of the most common side effects of trazodone are sleepiness and dizziness, but there are also black box warnings about potentially severe side effects that come with the use of this drug, such as serotonin syndrome or thoughts of suicide.

You should discuss the side effects of trazodone with your doctor to ensure it’s right for you, and your doctor will weight any possible side effects of trazodone against the potential benefits the use of the drug can have in treating your symptoms.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.