Citalopram

  • Try to take citalopram at the same time each day.
  • It may take a week or two after starting this treatment before you begin to feel the benefit. Do not stop taking it, feeling it is not helping.
  • Tell your doctor if you feel that you are getting worse or if you experience any troublesome side-effects.
Type of medicine Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI)
Used for Depression
Panic disorder
Also called Cipramil®
Available as Tablets
Oral drops

The exact cause of depression is not known. Anyone can develop depression. It can develop for no apparent reason or it may be triggered by a life event such as a relationship problem, bereavement, or illness.

Brain cells called neurons, release a number of chemicals which go on to stimulate other neurons leading to electrical impulses which result in many functions controlled by the brain. Serotonin is one such chemical in the brain. Once released, it stimulates other neurons and is then taken back up into the neuron cells and recycled. Antidepressants like citalopram increase the amount of circulating serotonin available in the brain. This may help depression symptoms in some people.

Before taking citalopram make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you are under 18 years of age.
  • If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
  • If you have heart, liver or kidney problems.
  • If you have epilepsy.
  • If you have diabetes.
  • If you have glaucoma (increased pressure in your eye).
  • If you have a bleeding disorder.
  • If you have ever had abnormally 'high' moods.
  • If you are being treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
  • If you have taken an antidepressant known as a monoamine-oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) within the previous two weeks.
  • If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack.
  • Take citalopram exactly as your doctor has told you. You will be told how many tablets or drops to take each day, and this information will also be on the label of the pack you have been supplied with.
  • If you have been given Cipramil® oral drops: count the correct number of drops into water or a drink of orange or apple juice. Stir it briefly and then drink it straightaway.
  • Try to take citalopram at the same time each day to avoid missing any of your doses.
  • It is not important whether you take citalopram before, during or after food.
  • If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
  • You may feel that citalopram is not working for you straightaway. It can take a week or two after starting this treatment before the effect begins to build up, and 4-6 weeks before you feel the full benefit. Do not stop taking it after a week or so, feeling it is not helping.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • It is sensible to avoid drinking alcohol while you are being treated with citalopram. Taking citalopram and alcohol increases the chance that you may experience side-effects.
  • If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood glucose more frequently, as citalopram may affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will be able to advise you about this.
  • Citalopram may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than usual. Avoid strong sunlight and sunbeds until you know how your skin reacts.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with citalopram.
  • There are several types of antidepressants and they differ in their possible side-effects. If you find that citalopram does not suit you then let your doctor know, as another may be found that will.
  • Do not stop taking citalopram unless your doctor tells you to do so. Stopping treatment suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will probably want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
  • While you feel depressed or are taking citalopram, you may have thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life. It is very important that you tell your doctor about this if it happens.
  • If you are taking citalopram for depression, you should expect that a normal course will last for around six months after your symptoms have eased. If you are taking citalopram for a panic disorder, your course may last for several months or until you are free from symptoms.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common citalopram side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Feeling or being sick, indigestion, abdominal pain, diarrhoea Stick to simple foods and drink plenty of water
Sleepiness If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines
Dry mouth Try chewing sugar-free gum or sweets
Feeling restless, shaky, anxious, nervous or agitated This may happen when you first start taking citalopram but usually settles within a few days. If it becomes troublesome or severe, speak with your doctor
Increased sweating, difficulty sleeping, constipation, lack of appetite, loss of weight, muscle and joint pains, tingling of the skin, sexual difficulties, ringing in the ears, yawning If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor

Important: if you develop any of the following, contact your doctor straightaway or go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital:

  • Any swelling of the mouth or face.
  • Any shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing.
  • An itchy rash.

If you experience any other symptoms that you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • You can use citalopram drops for 16 weeks after first opening the bottle. Do not use the drops after this time.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Cipramil® Tablets,; Manufacturer's PIL, Cipramil® Tablets, Lundbeck Limited, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated March 2011.
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Cipramil® Drops; Manufacturer's PIL, Cipramil® Drops, Lundbeck Limited, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated March 2011.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Last Checked:
15/12/2011
Document ID:
3700 (v24)
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