Can antidepressant medication relieve agitation in Alzheimer's disease?

Expert Rev Neurother. 2014 Sep;14(9):969-71. doi: 10.1586/14737175.2014.947964.


Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are a major concern in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Historically, NPS are difficult to treat effectively due to a high side-effect burden associated with commonly used medications, such as atypical antipsychotics. Non-pharmacological treatment approaches have become the first line option. However, when such treatment fails, pharmacological options are often used. Thus, a push toward finding safer alternative pharmacological treatments has occurred. Antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have shown promise in clinical trials for alleviating the burden of NPS. Lower overall agitation and caregiver stress has been reported to correlate to treatment with the SSRI citalopram. However, certain side effects of citalopram, such as QTc interval prolongation and increased cognitive decline, carry clinical concern and should be weighed when prescribing their use.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; agitation; antidepressants; citalopram; neuropsychiatric symptoms; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors; treatment.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / complications*
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Agitation / drug therapy*
  • Psychomotor Agitation / etiology*


  • Antidepressive Agents