Trazodone. A review of its pharmacology, therapeutic use in depression and therapeutic potential in other disorders

Drugs Aging. 1994 Apr;4(4):331-55. doi: 10.2165/00002512-199404040-00006.


Trazodone is a triazolopyridine derivative, chemically and pharmacologically unrelated to other currently available antidepressants. It possesses antidepressant, and also some anxiolytic and hypnotic activity. Results from a small number of short term (4 to 6 weeks) comparative studies in a total of 320 evaluable elderly patients with major depression, suggest that trazodone at therapeutic doses is superior to placebo and as effective as amitriptyline, imipramine, fluoxetine and mianserin in relieving depressive symptoms. Trazodone has also been successfully used in a small number of patients with depression and pre-existing cardiovascular disease. More recently, trazodone has been used as a hypnotic for psychotropic-induced or other insomnias with some success. However, further clinical experience is needed to confirm these preliminary results. In the elderly, maximum tolerated doses of trazodone are 300 to 400 mg/day, although higher doses of up to 600 mg/day are tolerated by younger patients. Drowsiness is commonly reported, but the incidences of both anticholinergic and cardiovascular effects were notably lower in elderly patients treated with trazodone compared with older tricyclic antidepressants. However, undesirable effects such as orthostatic hypotension, arrhythmias and priapism need to be closely monitored. In comparison with other currently available agents, particularly the tricyclic antidepressants, trazodone is relatively safe in overdose. In terms of therapeutic efficacy, trazodone appears to confer little advantage over other available antidepressants. While limited data suggest that trazodone may be better tolerated than older tricyclic antidepressants, especially in the elderly, there is a paucity of data at present comparing trazodone with the secondary amine tricyclic agents, serotonin reuptake inhibitors or moclobemide. Bearing this in mind, trazodone may be of use in elderly patients in whom anxiety and insomnia are problematic, and in those patients who are unresponsive to or cannot tolerate therapy with other agents. Studies are also required to define the place of trazodone in long term prophylactic therapy for recurrent depression. Future trials comparing both its efficacy and tolerability with those of newer agents will ascertain whether trazodone becomes a first line agent within these subsets of elderly patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Trazodone / therapeutic use*


  • Trazodone