MAOIs for Depression in Children and Teens

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
phenelzine Nardil
tranylcypromine Parnate

How It Works

These medicines balance certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters by reducing the amount of monoamine oxidase, the substance that breaks down the neurotransmitters. This helps make the symptoms of depression better.

Why It Is Used

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are very rarely given to children or teens and usually are not the first medicines given to treat their depression. This is because these medicines have serious side effects when combined with certain foods or medicines.

How Well It Works

No evidence exists that MAOIs are effective at treating depression in young people, although they are sometimes used when other medicines have failed.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Chest pains.
  • Fast or slow heartbeat.
  • Severe headache.
  • Stiff neck.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Appetite changes or weight gain.
  • Loss of sexual desire or ability.
  • Muscle twitching during sleep.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antidepressant medicines and the risk of suicide. Talk to your child's doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Serious reactions—even death—can result when MAOIs are combined with some foods and medicines. While taking MAOIs, your child must avoid eating certain foods, such as some cheeses, broad beans such as fava beans, pickled foods such as sauerkraut, beer, and red wine. Eating these foods can cause severe high blood pressure and other health problems. Talk with your child's doctor about diet and medicine restrictions that your child will need to follow if taking an MAOI is planned.

Common nonprescription medicines, including certain cold remedies and diet pills, can also be dangerous when taken with an MAOI.

Your child must wait at least 14 days after he or she stops taking MAOIs before taking another antidepressant.

MAOIs can cause death if they are taken in overdose.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicines. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If your teen is pregnant or breast-feeding, do not use any medicines unless her doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm the baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all of your teen's doctors know that she is pregnant or breast-feeding.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Hazell P (2011). Depression in children and adolescents, search date July 2011. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer David A. Axelson, MD - Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Current as of May 3, 2013

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