Trazodone Addiction: Its Associated Symptoms and Treatment

Last Updated: December 16, 2021

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

Trazodone is a prescription medication approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adults. The drug can be used as part of an addiction treatment program to help addicts wean off certain drugs. It is also used off-label to manage several other conditions. In some cases, a person may become addicted to the medication without realizing it – which often happens through an increased dose when the effects of the medication wear off. This article discusses Trazodone uses, considers whether the medication is addictive, and looks at both the physical and psychological effects of addiction. It also discusses possible treatment options that individuals may be provided to assist in withdrawal when they stop using the drug.

What Is Trazodone?

It is a drug that is used in the treatment of anxiety, and major depressive disorder. Other Trazodone uses include treating low mood, sleep problems, and poor concentration. It is available as a prescription drug and comes in tablets, capsules, and liquid formulations.

The drug class categorization would be SARI (serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor). The drug works by inhibiting the reabsorption of serotonin by neurons in the person’s brain. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter that is mainly active in the brain and plays a role in the regulation of numerous neurological effects. One crucial area is where serotonin plays a part in the regulation of a person’s mood. This is primarily where the medicine’s benefits come into play.

Is It A Controlled Substance?

Is trazodone a narcotic? The FDA has not listed the medication as a controlled substance or a narcotic because there are no studies to that effect. However, the drug has the potential for abuse and can cause dependency due to its sedative effects. That is why a prescription is required before the drug is sold. Nevertheless, its abuse potential is lower than other drugs that induce sleep. It is advisable to take the Trazodone pill under a doctor’s care to ensure compliance and to avoid Trazodone abuse.

A woman holds Trazodone pill in one hand and a glass of water in the other.

Trazodone Brand Names

The Trazodone pill was approved for medical use in 1981 and is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the US. There are several brand names available from different manufacturers. Generic and trade formulations of the medicine can be obtained legally only by prescription.

The Brand Names Are:

  • Desyrel
  • Desyrel Dividose
  • Oleptro
  • Trazodone Z

The medication can only be administered orally regardless of the brand. All brands of medicine are efficient in treating major depressive disorders. However, Oleptro’s usage has been discontinued in the US.

Dosage Forms And Formulations

The Trazodone pill comes in many dosage forms and formulations. It is prescribed based on the intensity and duration of the depression along with other factors. The medicine is insured by most insurance plans including Medicare.

Here Is a List of Dosage Forms Available:

  • Desyrel 50 mg- The 50 mg Trazodone pill is manufactured and distributed by Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc. It comes in white color and round or biconvex shape. It has a rating of AB and an imprint code which reads PLIVA 433 on one side. It is 7.14 mm in diameter with a debossed line that runs through the middle.
  • Desyrel 100 mg– Also manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc, the drug comes in a white circular shape. It has a debossed line on one side and an imprint code of PLIVA 434 on the other. It is white or off-white and 9.53 mm in diameter.
  • Desyrel 150 mg- Marketed by Accord Healthcare Limited, the pills are in white or off-white color with an oblong shape. There are two debossed lines on one side of the tablet and one debossed line on the other. The imprint code on one side of the tablet is IT150 and the other side has 50 printed 3 times across it.
  • Desyrel 300 mg- Manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals and marketed by Accord Healthcare Limited, this pill is white. It has an imprint code of bar 733 with three debossed lines running through the imprint. On the other side, there is an imprint of 100/100/100 signifying the dosage.

What Is Desyrel Used For?

The FDA has officially approved the drug as a treatment option for depression. Individuals who experience depressive thoughts and other symptoms that are commonly associated with this mental health illness may be prescribed a particular dose of the drug– the specific dose will depend on the severity of their symptoms. While officially approved as an antidepressant by the FDA, there are specific off-label uses for this drug as well.

Doctors sometimes prescribe medication to patients to help treat certain types of anxiety and sleep disorders, as well as pain treatment.

Trazodone For Sleep The use of the medication for sleep was discovered by accident. One of the Desyrel side effects of the medicine is drowsiness. When used for patients with depression, it was found that the medication made them sleepy, and doses taken at night often resulted in sound sleep. As such, doctors began using Desyrel for insomnia treatment. Now, it is more often prescribed for insomnia than depression. Despite how often it is used to treat sleep issues, there is not enough clinical data to justify FDA approval for this use. The most significant risks of using the medication for insomnia treatment are becoming dependent upon it for sleep and the medication losing its effectiveness.
Trazodone For Anxiety In some cases, doctors use Desyrel for anxiety, especially when it presents itself at the same time as depression or insomnia. When used for anxiety, the mechanism of action is the same as with depression. It is used when other first-line anxiety treatment drugs have failed. A study conducted in 1993 showed that Desyrel can effectively treat anxiety at a level comparable to valium. The medication can help with insomnia and nightmares related to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Trazodone For Pain One of the less common Trazodone uses is for pain, it is generally for severe, chronic aching. For example, a study concluded that it can be used in the treatment of fibromyalgia and arthritis. However, there is a concern of overdose occurring when using it to manage pain. How much Trazodone to overdose is not the concern so much as overdose from interactions between medications. Most people suffering from chronic pain are on many medications, making adding one more a risky proposition.

There are various Trazodone uses. Even though it was officially developed as a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor to act as an antidepressant in persons with depression, medical experts have noted that the drug can assist in the treatment of other conditions as well. While Desyrel is most often utilized as an antidepressant, as well as to treat anxiety and insomnia, it is sometimes also used as a way to assist in the treatment of certain addictions. Patients who are undergoing detoxification for alcohol and drug addiction may be provided with this particular medication to help reduce the severity of their withdrawal symptoms.

Trazodone Abuse Overview

The medicine is a serotonin antagonist and reuptake absorber (SARI) which helps in recovery from depression and anxiety by increasing serotonin. Though SARI drugs are not addictive, due to the Trazodone mechanism of action, they can cause dependency when misused. So, is Trazodone a narcotic? No, it is not. But it can eventually lead to Trazodone addiction. Unfortunately, people can use Trazodone as a recreational substance. In 2018, over 240,000 people, aged 12 years and above, confessed to abusing prescription sedatives like Desyrel. It is referred to recreationally as “sleep easy” and often mixed with alcohol and other drugs to produce a euphoric feeling. Addicts can seek help from a rehab center to aid recovery. Patients are also advised to stay off alcohol doing the withdrawal phase.

Is Trazodone Addictive?

People often ask if it is addictive or habit-forming. The answer would be yes, but at the same time, it should be noted that the risk of addiction is reasonably low with this drug. The drug is non-addictive if used with the help of a physician. Studies indicate that the drug has a lower abuse potential than other sleep pills. However, when abused, addiction to the drug can occur. In the majority of cases where Trazodone addiction is indicated, the individual would become hooked without their initial knowledge – this is often because their body gets used to the drug’s effects and develops a dependence. This can be avoided when the patient takes the medication under the supervision of a health professional. Recovery from Trazodone addiction is possible at a recognized rehab center that has a holistic recovery program.

A depressed woman lies in bed and looks at Trazodone pills.

Physical Addiction Signs

Physical addiction symptoms may appear in a person who has become dependent on the effects that the drug provides them. However, the symptoms may vary from person to person. Some of the Physical Signs of Addiction Include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Seizures
  • Bruising or bleeding
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Drowsiness
  • Sweating
  • Muscle pain

Among the common side effects of the drug is weight fluctuations. The patient may start to take a higher dose without any recommendations from a doctor. This can cause dependence, substance abuse, and addiction. Stopping the drug cold turkey results in serious health complications. Patients are advised to not mix the medication with alcohol or it could worsen their plight. Help can be sought from a recognized rehab center for withdrawal. In some cases, the patient may also hide the fact that the drug is being used, or the patient may not advise loved ones of a dosage increase.

Psychological Addiction Signs

The individual may also exhibit specific psychological symptoms that could signal an addiction. This may include:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Confusion
  • Memory Issues
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Nervousness
  • Suicidal thinking

When a patient is addicted, they may not want to stop using the drug, even if they have been told to do so. Psychological withdrawal from Desyrel may also be worse. To aid withdrawal from the drug, patients are advised to enroll in a center with a holistic addiction treatment program. Any substance like alcohol or drugs that may worsen the addiction should be

Who Is Most At Risk Of Trazodone Addiction

Everyone is at risk of abusing and getting addicted to the medication due to its sedative effects. However, some people may be at a higher risk of abusing SARI and other types of antidepressants than others. Several factors determine whether one is more at risk of addiction than the other.

Let’s Examine A Few Of Such Factors:

  • People with a history of addiction: In particular, people with a history of addiction are more likely to abuse this drug or increase the dosage without first consulting with a doctor. Using Trazodone with alcohol may increase the likelihood of abuse.
  • People who develop tolerance: It should be noted that some people may also be at risk of developing an addiction to this medication without their knowledge. This often occurs when the person’s body develops a tolerance to the drug. This calls for a higher dose. Eventually, once the individual feels better and decides to stop using the antidepressant, withdrawal symptoms are noted – this is because their body has developed an addiction to the effects imposed by these pills. This may also cause the individual to overdose on Trazodone.
  • People who take prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons: People who fake sickness just to get their hands on certain drugs are also at risk of Trazodone abuse and addiction. Such people do not have any underlying sickness and thus take the drugs just for recreation. Since the “high” produced by Desyrel intake is very low, users may increase the dosage. This leads to Trazodone abuse and eventual addiction.

All who are at risk of abusing the drug should be properly monitored by a physician or close relative. Medical doctors should thoroughly examine patients to ensure they are sick before prescribing any medicine. If any patient develops tolerance, they should seek help from a medical doctor. Addicts should also visit an addiction center or enroll in a treatment program to help with withdrawal. To avoid Trazodone abuse, patients should abstain from alcohol during treatment.

Treating Trazodone Addiction

Treatment implemented for a person who has become addicted to Desyrel depends on factors such as the severity of their dependence. How long they have been taking the drugs will also be factored in. A recovery program may include group counseling or individual counseling or both to ensure the underlying problem causing the addiction is solved. To stop Trazodone abuse and addiction, patients taking the medication should be strictly supervised.

Detoxification in either an inpatient or outpatient setting may be advised, as monitoring of the patient can be helpful in the treatment of this addiction. The recovery in specialized drug rehab facilities makes the process easier and faster.

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Published on: April 1st, 2019

Updated on: December 16th, 2021

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.