Does Pristiq Block Dopamine? (+3 studies)

In this article, we will discuss whether Pristiq blocks dopamine. We will also discuss the mechanism of action of Pristiq, its effects on other neurotransmitters, and other relevant information. 

Does Pristiq block dopamine?

Pristiq has little to no effects on dopamine. It acts on serotonin and norepinephrine (NE) and has a weak effect on dopamine and its reuptake. Pristiq is the brand name for desvenlafaxine which is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) (1). 

Pristiq is an antidepressant that works by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and NE thereby elevating their concentration in the brain. Due to this effect, it is an FDA-approved drug for major depressive disorder (MDD). 

Dopamine is also a neurotransmitter like serotonin and NE. Dopamine influences reward processing, focus, motivation, locomotion, and the ability to experience pleasure. It is likely to play a role in regulating human emotions (2). 

Due to its effects, a dopamine deficit is likely to be involved in the development of depression. Poor functioning of dopaminergic neurons results in depressive symptoms like loss of interest and hopelessness (2). 

Although different antidepressants block the reuptake of dopamine to increase dopamine levels in the brain, Pristiq is not one of them. Studies have demonstrated that Pristiq has little to no effects on dopamine levels. 

What does research suggest? 

Different studies have been performed to assess the impact of Pristiq on dopamine levels. Competitive radioligand binding assays demonstrated that Pristiq shows a weak binding affinity for dopamine transporters (3). 

Another study was carried out to study the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile of Pristiq. Results revealed that Pristiq increased serotonin and NE levels while the dopamine concentration remained unchanged (4). 

A microdialysis study on desvenlafaxine, the generic of Pristiq demonstrated that it did not change the extracellular dopamine levels in the rat striatum. In this study, desvenlafaxine was administered both orally and intravenously (5). 

These studies show that Pristiq does not change the level of dopamine in the brain. It does not block dopamine or increase or decrease the dopamine levels in the brain.  

What neurotransmitters does Pristiq affect? 

Pristiq has poor effects on dopamine. The primary neurotransmitters that are influenced by Pristiq are serotonin and norepinephrine (NE). Pristiq blocks their reuptake and increases their concentration in the brain.


Changes in the synthesis, release, transport, and concentration of serotonin are associated with depression. Serotonin deficit has been associated with self-blame, criticism, anxiety, fear, a low mood, and other negative emotions in MDD (2). 

Due to the role of serotonin in depression, drugs that increase the levels of serotonin are known to treat depression. Pristiq is also effective for depression as it increases serotonin concentration. 

An excessive concentration of serotonin in the brain can lead to serotonin syndrome. It is a rare but lethal condition therefore one must immediately contact their healthcare provider if they observe the following symptoms while taking Pristiq (1): 

  • increased heart rate
  • excessive saliva production
  • excessive sweating
  • hyperactive bowel sounds
  • pupil dilation 
  • hyperthermia

Norepinephrine (NE):

Pristiq increases NE levels in the body. NE deficiency has been observed in depressed individuals. A lack of NE results in symptoms like a reduction in pleasure, happiness, interest, energy, passion, and confidence (2). 

Thus, Pristiq produces its effects by increasing the levels of serotonin and NE. It does not block dopamine or change its concentration. 

What are some other drugs that affect dopamine?

Different drugs affect the level of dopamine in the body. They may block dopamine and reduce its concentration or increase dopamine levels in the body.

Drugs that block dopamine:

Drugs that act as dopamine antagonists are as follows: 

  • metoclopramide
  • prochlorperazine
  • droperidol
  • promethazine
  • haloperidol

Dopamine antagonists are used to treat mental disorders associated with increased brain activity. Some mental disorders treated by these drugs include schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These drugs also help with severe nausea and vomiting. 

Drugs that increase dopamine levels: 

Drugs that increase dopamine levels are as follows:

  • bromocriptine
  • amantadine
  • fenoldopam
  • antidepressants like Wellbutrin (bupropion). 

As per my understanding, Pristiq does not block dopamine. Studies have demonstrated that Pristiq has a weak binding affinity for dopamine and has little to no effects on its concentration. Pristiq produces its effects primarily by acting on serotonin and NE receptors and increasing their concentration in the brain. Serotonin, NE, and dopamine have different roles in the brain and their dysfunction is involved in the development of depression.

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