Psychopharmacologic Agents and Psychiatric Drug Considerations


Generic (trade) names

Common side effects and special points


Citalopram (Celexa, Cipram, Cipramil, Serostat)

SSRIs are safer when overdosed

Escitalopram (Lexapro)

GI: nausea, diarrhea, headache

Fluvoxamine (Dumirox, Faverin, Floxyfral, Luvox)

GU: loss of libido, ED, fail to reach orgasm

Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)

Increase of suicidal ideation, hyponatremia

Paroxetine (Paxil)

Serotonergic syndrome

Sertraline (Zoloft)


Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep, Entrofen)

Cardiac: increase heart rate and/or blood pressure

Amoxapine (Asendin)

Dry mouth, blurred vision, drowsiness, dizziness, skin rash, weight gain or loss

Clomipramine (Anafranil)

Sexual problems

Desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofran)

Doxepin (Adapin, Sinequan)

Imipramine (Norfranil, Tofranil, Tipramine)

Maprotiline (Ludiomil)

Nortriptyline (Aventyl, Noratren, Pamelor)

Protriptyline (Vivactil)

Trimipramine (Surmontil)


Deprenyl (Eldepryl)

Heart attack, liver inflammation, stroke, seizure

Phenelzine (Nardil)

Severe hypertension if taken together with certain food or beverage rich in tyramine

Selegiline (Emsam)

Weight gain, constipation, dry mouth, dizziness, headache, drowsiness, insomnia, and sexual side effects

Tranylcypromine (Parnate)


Moclobemide (Aurorix)

Urticaria, angioedema, asthma, insomnia, anxiety, agitation, vertigo, headache, seizure, nausea, diarrhea, hypertension


Reboxetine (Edronax, Vestra)

Dry mouth, constipation, headache, drowsiness, dizziness, sweating, insomnia, hypertension


Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR)

Restlessness, insomnia, headache, worsening of migraine conditions, tremor, dry mouth, agitation, confusion, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, nausea, constipation, menstrual complaints, and rash


Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Nervousness, agitation, headache, insomnia, seizure, nausea, diarrhea, rash, sexual side effects (problems with arousal or satisfaction)

Duloxetine (Cymbalta)


Nefazodone (Dutonin, Serzone)

Drowsiness, nausea/vomiting, headache, and dry mouth. Rare cases of liver failure leading to transplant and/or death in patients have been reported with nefazodone

Trazodone (Desyrel, Trazon, Trialodine)


Mirtazapine (Remeron)

Dizziness, blurred vision, sedation, somnolence, malaise/lassitude, increased appetite and weight gain, dry mouth, constipation, enhanced libido and sexual function, and vivid, bizarre, lucid dreams or nightmares


Gingko biloba remedies

Gingko: nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, bleeding, weakness, seizure, headache


Ginseng: nervousness, excitability, headache, euphoria, bleeding

Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort)

St John’s wort: GI symptoms, dizziness, confusion, tiredness, sedation

Abbreviations : CRIRB (combined reuptake inhibitors and receptor blockers), ED erectile dysfunction, GI gastrointestinal, GU genitourological, MAOI monoamine oxidase inhibitors, NARI noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, NaSSa noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants, NDRI norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors, NSSA noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants, RIMA (reversible inhibitors of monoamine oxidase type), SNRI serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, TCAs tricyclic antidepressant drugs, GI gastrointestinal, SIADH syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin)

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

However, SSRIs may cause nausea, diarrhea, headache, sexual dysfunction, agitation, and insomnia aside from some mild sedative effects. Specifically, escitalopram is possibly associated with hyponatremia. Fluoxetine is a potent inhibitor of the cytochrome P450 2D6 isoenzyme [7]. The inhibition of this enzyme leads to a rise in the plasma concentration of drugs that depend on hepatic metabolism for clearance (such as β-blockers, benzodiazepines, and some cardiac anti-dysrhythmic drugs). The most obvious results of this inhibition derive from the treatment of the patients’ depression itself, because patients may be treated with several antidepressants from different classes. Concomitant treatment of depressed patients with both fluoxetine and a tricyclic drug may result in substantial rises in plasma concentrations of the latter. A small subgroup of depressed patients may have an increased rate of suicide when treated with SSRIs [8, 9].

Combining SSRIs with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) may precipitate serotonin syndrome, which is similar to neuroleptic malignant syndrome both in its presentation and its mortality and is marked by flushing, restlessness, anxiety, chills, ataxia, insomnia, and hemodynamic instability. Combination of fluoxetine with the mood stabilizers carbamazepine or lithium may also precipitate this syndrome.

Warnings: The use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has been linked to an increased risk of bleeding due to possible SSRI-induced increase in gastric acid secretion or SSRI-related effects on platelet reactivity. Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning cautioned that citalopram dosages exceeding 40 mg/day could expose patients to an increased risk of abnormal heart rhythms – QT interval prolongation, including torsades de pointes.

Clinical Pearls

For anesthetic management, SSRIs do not pose too much challenge. SSRIs have little effect on seizure threshold. Some seizures in patients using SSRIs may be caused by hyponatremia or in patients on other medications that also produce these effects including diuretics. Some attention should be paid to drug combinations and the effects of drugs taken by patients on the cytochrome system if the patient has been taking barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and certain neuromuscular-blocking drugs.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Mechanism of Action

The tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) were the most widely used drugs to treat clinical depression prior to the SSRIs after imipramine (Tofranil) was shown to be effective for treating depression in the 1950s. TCAs primarily work by increasing the level of norepinephrine in the brain and, to a lesser extent, serotonin levels. Some TCAs also are antihistamines (which block the action of histamine) or anticholinergic (which blocks the action of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter). These additional actions allow for uses of TCAs other than for treating depression as well as introduce additional side effects.

Side Effects and Drug Interactions

A TCA’s chemical structure is composed of three conjoined rings. If the nitrogen atom on the center ring is a tertiary amine, the drug belongs to the first-generation TCAs; most side effects associated with TCAs are more pronounced with first-generation TCAs. If it is a secondary amine, the drug is a second-generation tricyclic. TCAs may inhibit the antihypertensive effect of clonidine (Catapres). Therefore, combining TCAs with clonidine may lead to dangerous elevations in blood pressure. TCAs may affect the heart’s electrical conduction system. Combining TCAs with drugs that also affect the heart’s conduction system (disopyramide, pimozide, procainamide) may increase the frequency and severity of an abnormal heart rate and rhythm [10]. Combining TCAs with carbamazepine (Tegretol) may result in lower TCA blood levels because carbamazepine increases the breakdown of TCAs, potentially reducing the effect of TCAs. TCAs may increase the blood pressure-elevating effect of epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, phenylephrine, and dobutamine.

It is generally believed that the TCAs are equally potent with regard to treatment of depression. On the other hand, all of the TCAs cause some anticholinergic symptoms, orthostatic hypotension, cardiac dysrhythmia, and sedation. However, they do so in varying degrees when compared with their efficacy as antidepressants. This differing side effect profile serves as the basis for much of the strategy employed by practitioners prescribing these drugs. For example, a drug that causes a greater degree of sedation might be chosen preferentially for patients experiencing insomnia as part of their symptomatology. Similarly, practitioners might avoid drugs that have greater anticholinergic activity in patients who have glaucoma or reflux disease, for example. The degree of cardiac dysrhythmia potential is essentially the same for TCAs, and they should be avoided in patients with known cardiac conduction abnormalities such as second-degree or higher atrioventricular blocks. It has been shown that despite their potential for causing cardiac dysrhythmias, they may paradoxically show some anti-dysrhythmic activity. Also of note is the fact that despite the electrocardiographic (ECG) changes that occur with these drugs, the changes tend to dissipate with ongoing treatment, implying some sort of tolerance on the part of the cardiac conduction system to these effects.

Commonly, seizure activity associated with antidepressant therapy is seen after an acute overdose. Dose‐dependent seizure activity has been traditionally reported with imipramine, amitriptyline, clomipramine, and maprotiline. Bupropion, while not a TCA, is well known for its risk of seizures – especially in higher doses or in patients with predisposing factors like family history.

Clinical Pearls

Anesthetic management of patients who are on TCAs revolves around the side effects of these medications and their interactions with other drugs. The mechanism of the antidepressant effects of TCAs involves enhancement of serotonergic and noradrenergic activity. TCAs’ inhibition of histaminergic, cholinergic, and α1-adrenergic activity is responsible for many of their side effects. The main concerns for these patients being treated with a TCA center around the cardiovascular system and the interaction of the drug with a specific neurotransmitter, such as norepinephrine. Since the administration of TCAs causes an increase of this neurotransmitter to be stored in noradrenergic nerve terminals, the administration of indirect-acting vasopressors such as ephedrine may cause an exaggerated release of epinephrine. This effect is most pronounced with acute treatment and gradually dissipates after the first 2–3 weeks. Caution is therefore advised with regard to using drugs with sympathomimetic effects on patients receiving TCAs. TCAs’ anticholinergic effects can potentially cause a problem to anesthesiologists, because many drugs used by anesthesiologists are anticholinergics or have anticholinergic effects. Preoperatively, some anesthesiologists employ scopolamine for its sedative, anxiolytic, and antisialagogic properties. Intraoperatively, glycopyrrolate and atropine are both used for their anticholinergic properties. Pancuronium, which has significant anticholinergic effects, is still used for procedures requiring a long period of muscle relaxation, especially cardiac surgery. Atropine and glycopyrrolate have been noted to have increased muscarinic activity in the presence of TCAs, and the administration of pancuronium has been documented to precipitate tachydysrhythmias in a sample of patients studied. Furthermore, there is the possibility that preoperative treatment with scopolamine may increase the incidence of emergence delirium, although there are no formal studies that support this suspicion.

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Sep 18, 2016 | Posted by in ANESTHESIA | Comments Off on Psychopharmacologic Agents and Psychiatric Drug Considerations
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