Does duloxetine treat depression? (+11 alternatives)

In this article, we will discuss the role of duloxetine in the management of depression and its associated symptoms. We will also explore research suggesting the effectiveness of this medication in depression, as well as alternatives to duloxetine if it fails to manage depression.

Does duloxetine treat depression?

Yes, duloxetine does treat depression. Duloxetine, also known as Cymbalta, is effective in the management of depression and its associated symptoms, including sadness, hopelessness, and agitation.

Its therapeutic effects may be attributed to its interference with neurotransmitters in the brain, namely serotonin and norepinephrine. Duloxetine works by increasing the concentration of these neurotransmitters, contributing to the regulation of mood and behavior in individuals with underlying depression (1).

While considered a generally safe medication with a lower incidence of serious side effects, it may cause certain mild side effects in some individuals. These can include dizziness, vomiting, headaches, tiredness, and sleep disturbances (1). 

What is the dosage of duloxetine for depression?

Duloxetine has proven to be effective in managing symptoms of depression within the dosage range of 60 to 120 mg. Typically, a cautious approach is taken during the initial stages of treatment, with a low dosage administered to mitigate potential unwanted side effects as the body adjusts to the medication. If symptoms persist with the initial low dosage, a gradual increment is considered, up to an optimum level that yields therapeutic benefits (2).

The dosage and duration of duloxetine treatment are personalized based on the individual response of the patient. Generally, the treatment course extends from a few months to a year. Notably, noticeable improvements in symptoms are often observed after 3 to 4 weeks of initiating duloxetine therapy (1).

What does research suggest?

According to research, duloxetine is considered a choice of medication for managing symptoms of mental disorders, including depression. In a research study, the effectiveness of duloxetine was analyzed at a dosage of 60 mg daily for the management of depression and its associated symptoms (3).

The results revealed that approximately 40% of patients experienced improvement in their symptoms. However, it is noteworthy that around 10% of patients discontinued the medication due to the occurrence of side effects (3).

 In another study, a higher dosage of duloxetine was employed to manage the symptoms of depression. Remarkably, around 60% of patients exhibited improvement in their symptoms after just a few days of treatment, and an even more substantial 80% responded positively to the treatment, showing significant improvement after 2 to 3 weeks (4).

Despite these encouraging results, it’s important to note that 20% of participants discontinued the medication due to the occurrence of side effects.

What to do if duloxetine fails to treat depression? 

Duloxetine is generally considered an effective medication for depression. It’s important to remain patient during the initial phase of treatment, as it may take a few weeks to start improving your symptoms.

However, if you find that your symptoms are not improving even after weeks of treatment, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare professional. Your healthcare provider can analyze your symptoms and determine the potential reasons for the ineffectiveness of duloxetine.

In some cases, gradually increasing the dosage may help improve symptoms. However, if a higher dosage proves ineffective, your healthcare provider may recommend alternative medications for the management of depression.

Alternative medications may also be prescribed in situations where the use of duloxetine should be avoided, such as in individuals with underlying liver toxicities, allergies to duloxetine, or during pregnancy (1).

What are alternatives to duloxetine if it fails to treat depression?

There are alternatives to duloxetine for the management of depression in cases where it is not effective. These alternatives may include (5):

  • fluoxetine
  • sertraline
  • citalopram
  • venlafaxine
  • desvenlafaxine
  • bupropion
  • mirtazapine
  • agomelatine 
  • doxazocin
  • amitriptyline
  • nortriptyline

It’s important to note that while these medications can serve as substitutes for duloxetine in depression management, they also come with some side effects that should be taken into consideration before starting treatment.

Additionally, the choice of an appropriate medication should be specific to individual needs and overall health status. Consulting with a healthcare provider is crucial for determining the most suitable alternative based on an individual’s unique circumstances.

It’s essential to be vigilant and report any unusual symptoms that may arise during depression treatment to ensure both the safety and efficacy of the chosen treatment plan. 

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!



Dhaliwal JS, Spurling BC, Molla M. Duloxetine. [Updated 2023 May 29]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:


Burt VK, Wohlreich MM, Mallinckrodt CH, Detke MJ, Watkin JG, Stewart DE. Duloxetine for the treatment of major depressive disorder in women ages 40 to 55 years. Psychosomatics. 2005 Jul-Aug;46(4):345-54. doi: 10.1176/appi.psy.46.4.345. PMID: 16000678.


Raskin J, Wiltse CG, Siegal A, Sheikh J, Xu J, Dinkel JJ, Rotz BT, Mohs RC. Efficacy of duloxetine on cognition, depression, and pain in elderly patients with major depressive disorder: an 8-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Psychiatry. 2007 Jun;164(6):900-9. doi: 10.1176/ajp.2007.164.6.900. PMID: 17541049.


Raskin J, Goldstein DJ, Mallinckrodt CH, Ferguson MB. Duloxetine in the long-term treatment of major depressive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2003 Oct;64(10):1237-44. doi: 10.4088/jcp.v64n1015. PMID: 14658974.


Sheffler ZM, Patel P, Abdijadid S. Antidepressants. 2023 May 26. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan–. PMID: 30844209.

Find a supportive therapist who can help with Depression.

Discover the convenience of BetterHelp, an online therapy platform connecting you with licensed and accredited therapists specialized in addressing issues such as depression, anxiety, relationships, and more. Complete the assessment and find your ideal therapist within just 48 hours.


AskYourPharm is user-supported. We may earn a commission if you sign up for BetterHelp’s services after clicking through from this site