Antidepressants as antipruritic agents: A review

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2018 Mar;28(3):341-352. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2018.01.007. Epub 2018 Feb 16.


Pruritus is a concomitant symptom of various underlying disorders viz. dermatological, systemic and psychiatric disorders that provoke the person to scratch the skin. Many natural as well as, antipruritic therapies are usually practiced in the treatment of pruritus including general preventive measures, topical therapies such as cooling agents, antihistamines, anesthetics, capsaicin, corticosteroids, immunomodulators and; systemic therapies including administration of antihistamines, opioid antagonists/agonists, antiepileptic drugs/neuroleptics (e.g., gabapentin and pregabalin), antidepressants (e.g., doxepin, amitriptyline, paroxetine, fluvoxamine, sertraline, escitalopram and mirtazapine) (Patel and Yosipovitch, 2010; Reich et al., 2011; Martín and Padilla, 2015; Eskeland et al., 2016). Topical therapies are the mainstay of treatment of delicate and localized pruritus while other systemic drug therapies are used to treat stern and generalized pruritus. The reported antipruritic activity of some antidepressant drugs has intrigued this review to focus on the types of pruritus, pruritus mechanism, the antipruritic mechanism of antidepressants and to comprehend the role of antidepressants in the management of pruritus.

Keywords: Antidepressants; IFSI; Itch; Pruritus; Pruritus classification; Topical.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antipruritics / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Pruritus / drug therapy*


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antipruritics