Citalopram overdose (A brief guide)

Citalopram overdose

In this brief guide we will discuss “Citalopram overdose”, what is Citalopram, how can you overdose, side effects and when to seek medical assistance.

Citalopram Overdose: How?

Citalopram overdoses tend to have mild to moderate symptoms, particularly when ingesting doses under 600 mg in adults. However, with higher doses, severe symptoms like QTc prolongation, torsade de pointes or TdP, and seizures may manifest. 

Citalopram overdose (A brief guide)

What are the symptoms related to Citalopram Overdose?

These are some of the symptoms that have been reported in cases of citalopram overdose:

  • Convulsion or seizures
  • Tachycardia or an accelerated heart rate
  • Somnolence (feeling sleepy)
  • QT prolongation 
  • Coma
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors
  • Hypotension
  •   Cardiac arrest
  • Nausea
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Agitation or restlessness 
  • Bradycardia or having a very low heart rate
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Hypertension
  • Sweating excessively
  • Hyperventilation 

Can I die from a Citalopram Overdose?

There are conflicting facts about dying from citalopram overdose. Most of the studies suggest that you are not actually able to die from a citalopram overdose but from the interaction of citalopram with other substances like alcohol or other drugs.

What is Citalopram exactly?

Citalopram is a type of antidepressant (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor or SSRI), as we discussed previously, often used to treat depression and also sometimes it is prescribed to treat panic attacks. 

Research has suggested its effectiveness in helping people recover from depression and has been shown fewer side effects compared to other antidepressants. However, it is only available on prescription, in the form of tablets or liquid drops for faster intake.

Citalopram overdose (A brief guide)

It usually takes between 4 to 6 weeks for Citalopram to start working and as with any other drug, it poses the risk of experiencing side effects. Some of the common side effects include but are not limited to tiredness, dry mouth, and sweating excessively.

How and when to take it?

You need to take it once a day (at any time of the day but it is recommended to take it in the morning if you have trouble sleeping) and it won’t make a difference if you take it with or without having food.

Citalopram overdose (A brief guide)

What are the Common Side effects of Citalopram?

Some of the most common side effects can include feeling nauseous, dry mouth, loss of appetite, fatigue, drowsiness, sweating excessively, blurred vision and constant yawning. 

How much do I have to take?

Citalopram tablets come in different doses ranging from 10mg to 40mg and the usual recommended dose for adults is 20mg a day (max dose of 40mg a day). In children, the usual dose is 10mg a day, but it may get increased to 40mg a day as it is the case for adults. 

If you take too much by accident or get to experience symptoms such as the following, contact your doctor straight away:

  • Being sick (vomiting)
  • Shaking
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Fast heart rate
  • Seizures

Be aware that your body needs to gradually get used to the medicine, as soon as this happens, some of the side effects might disappear. However, if they are persistent in time or get worse, you need to seek medical assistance. 

Some of the serious effects are listed as follows:

  • Chest pain or pressure or shortness of breath
  • Severe dizziness or passing out (fainting)
  • Black stools
  • Painful erections that last longer than 4 hours – this may happen even when you’re not having sex
  • Vomit that looks like coffee beans
  • Having seizures
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Any bleeding that’s very bad or you can’t stop, such as cuts or nosebleeds that won’t stop within 10 minutes

Serotonin syndrome: symptoms

Since this medication increases the serotonin levels in some cases (very rare) it can cause a condition called serotonin syndrome. Some of the symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Having a very fast heart rate
  • Having hallucinations
  • Losing your coordination easily
  • Severe dizziness
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Twitches in your muscles
  • High fever
  • Feeling agitated or restless

Antidepressants: Suicidal Risk

Some studies have shown that taking antidepressants is associated with a higher risk of suicidal behavior (suicidal thinking or attempts) when compared to placebo drugs. This risk has been associated with age in the case in children, adolescents, and adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) or related psychiatric disorders. 

One study conducted by the Centre for Suicide Research in Oxford, England attempted to identify which antidepressant drugs were more closely related to suicides or suicide attempts using coroners reports and hospital admissions from six hospitals across the United Kingdom and Wales (between 2000 and 2006). 

They found that Tricyclic antidepressants or TCAs had the highest toxicity and rate of fatality compared to other classes of antidepressants. Additionally from the SSRIs group, Citalopram indicated to be the one with the highest toxicity and fatality rates. 

Besides being a treatment often used for depression, it can also be prescribed for the treatment of other major psychiatric disorders such as Obsessive-compulsive disorder (ODD), Panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric syndrome (PMDD), anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders. 

People under antidepressant medication should always be monitored and observed closely to help reduce or prevent suicidal behavior.  

Reviews from users after taking Citalopram (from drugs.com):

Here are some helpful reviews based on the experience of real users of Citalopram. Let’s take a look at how was their experience with the drug and if you are taking it or planning to, then it will let you make a decision about whether you should start taking it or stop (always under medical supervision.

Jd

Taken for 1 to 6 months

November 27, 2019

“I have battled against depression all my adult life and finally caved in a few months ago. Went to the doctor and asked for help. This drug has made me realise just how bad I have been and wish I hadn’t waited till I was 53 to take something. Now on citalopram I feel great and positive and looking forward to the rest of my life. Still have a bad day every now and then but am now able to understand and except the bad day and not want to run away and hide. Would tell anyone who feels they are struggling with life to see a doctor and let them help.”

7.0

Anonymous

November 20, 2019

Celexa (citalopram): “This drug made me sleepwalk three nights in a row, talk about scary,!…the final night, I took a giant swig of paint thinner, in my sleep. I immediately discontinued the drug, and all sleepwalking stopped, I was only taking it for about 5 weeks. I can still taste the turpentine”

1.0

Pipes

·

Taken for less than 1 month

November 19, 2019

“Started on these 3 weeks ago after my mam passing away then a fall out with a family member I just felt so emotional all the time after realising I needed. My GP he put me on 20mg I can honestly say I feel loads better + not so emotional I’ve been off work for 5 months but know I’m ready to return now Good luck all.”

Why is this blog about citalopram overdose important?

In many cases, we think drugs are the only solution to our problems. Some might come as physical pain and some as emotional or psychological. Either way, precautions, and recommendations need to be taken into consideration when starting to take a new drug.

Always follow you, doctors, instructions, if he or she prescribed is because it was the best option for you and your health. 

Please feel free to comment in the comments section below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Citalopram Overdose

Can citalopram be lethal?

Lethal intoxication outcomes of citalopram intake have been described as “rare”,  this is due to the fact that this drug is actually considered very safe in Europe and in the United States. Even when overdosing from taking high doses of citalopram, patients have recovered uneventfully.

Is citalopram a strong antidepressant?

Citalopram is considered a highly effective drug when treating psychiatric conditions such as depression. Other Selective Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) classed as antidepressants have shown the same effectivity in treating depression.

What does 20 mg of citalopram do?

This is the usual citalopram dose, a day, recommended for adults. This medication helps restore the balance of serotonin levels in the brain to help lessen the depressive symptoms and can even help you feel more energized.

What are the side effects of citalopram 40 mg tablets?

Common side effects described for an intake of citalopram 40 mg tablets include but are not limited to problems with your memory or concentration, headaches, drowsiness, dry mouth, sweating excessively, numbness or tingling sensations, increased appetite, nausea, diarrhea, feeling shaky, feeling tired and having problems with sleep.  

Recommended reading

  1. A Parent’s Guide to Depression and Anxiety (Axis Parent’s Guide)
  2. Citalopram Hydrobromide; A Clear and Concise Reference
  3. Citalopram 598 Questions to Ask that Matter to You
  4. The Pill That Steals Lives – One Woman’s Terrifying Journey to Discover the Truth About Antidepressants
  5. Dr. Shipko’s Informed Consent for SSRI Antidepressants

References

Rxlist: Celexa

Everyday Health: What is Citalopram (Celexa)?

Medicines.org.uk

NHS: Citalopram

Very Well Mind: How to tell if someone Has overdosed on antidepressants

Citalopram overdose (A brief guide)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.