Citalopram is part of a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs for short. SSRIs, such as citalopram, act on a specific chemical within the brain known as serotonin. Serotonin is one of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another.
As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin. The serotonin enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough serotonin reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin that remains in the gap between cells. This is called "reuptake."
Normally, this process works without any problems. When the levels of serotonin become unbalanced, however, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression. Citalopram helps to block the reuptake of serotonin so more serotonin remains in the space between the brain's nerve cells. This gives the serotonin a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.
Studies have shown citalopram to be effective for depression treatment in adults. People who took it showed more improvement in depression symptoms compared to people not taking the medicine. Also, long-term studies have shown that fewer people taking citalopram relapse (have their depression come back) than people not taking it.
Some general considerations for when and how to take the medication include:
- Citalopram comes in tablets and also as a liquid form. It is taken by mouth usually once a day.
- If the medication makes you drowsy, try taking it before bedtime. If it causes insomnia for you, try taking it in the morning.
- You can take it with or without food. If it bothers your stomach, try taking it with food.
- Citalopram should be taken at the same time each day to maintain an even level of the drug in your blood.
- For the medicine to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed. It will not work if you stop taking it.