Off-label uses of drugs for depression

Eur J Pharmacol. 2019 Dec 15:865:172732. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2019.172732. Epub 2019 Oct 14.


The prescription of drugs for depression is rising rapidly. One of the reasons for this trend is their many off-label uses. Up to one third of all prescriptions are for non-indicated use, which in addition to drug repurposing includes different dosing or duration than those recommended. In this review, we elaborate on what antidepressants can treat besides depression. The five classes of drugs for depression are introduced, and their mechanisms of action and serious side effects are described. The most common off-label uses of antidepressants are discussed, with a special focus on treating eating disorders, sleep problems, smoking cessation and managing chronic pain. Depression is often a comorbidity when antidepressants are chosen as therapy, but good therapeutic effects have been observed for other conditions also when depression is not involved. Finally, a new type of antidepressant developed from the hallucinogenic "party drug" ketamine is briefly introduced. This recent development suggests that antidepressants will keep playing a central role in medicine for years to come.

Keywords: Antidepressants; Chronic pain; Eating disorders; Off-label; Sleep disorders; Smoking cessation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Off-Label Use*


  • Antidepressive Agents