Does trazodone kill brain cells? (+3 studies)

In this article, we will discuss whether trazodone kills brain cells. We will also share the impact of trazodone on the brain, evidence from research, and other relevant information. 

Does trazodone kill brain cells? 

No, trazodone does not kill brain cells. Trazodone impacts brain cells, as it acts on the central nervous system (CNS), but it does not kill brain cells. Trazodone, an antidepressant, is a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI). 

Trazodone impacts the brain cells because it affects the neurotransmitters. It blocks the reuptake of serotonin and increases serotonin concentration in the brain. It also blocks some serotonin, histamine (H1), and alpha-1 adrenergic receptors (1). 

Due to its impact on neurotransmitters, trazodone can affect the brain cells positively and may also have some negative effects. However, trazodone does not kill brain cells because it is not neurotoxic or neurodegenerative. 

What does research suggest?

Different studies have explored the impact of trazodone on brain cells. In one study, the impact of trazodone on a type of brain cell called astrocytes was observed. Astrocytes release cytokines that control inflammation in the body (2).

The above-mentioned study discusses that when astrocytes in the brain are over-activated, the cytokines can kill the brain cells. Neuroinflammation results in many CNS diseases like depression, and Alzheimer’s disease (2). 

The results of this study revealed that trazodone regulates the signals within astrocytes and boosts the production of some substances that support the growth and health of brain cells (2). 

Thus, according to this study, trazodone has a neuroprotective effect on the brain, regulates neurotrophic growth factors, and relieves astrocyte-associated neurotoxicity (2). 

Another study mentions that in conditions like depression, neuroinflammation is increased. Trials on trazodone have demonstrated that trazodone increases the expression of different molecules that are needed for brain health (3).

The study mentions that trazodone reverses the effects of neuroinflammation in the brain, boosts the release of molecules healthy for the brain, and inhibits the release of inflammatory mediators. Thus, trazodone has neuroprotective effects (3). 

Different studies have explored the impact of trazodone on cognition. Trazodone improves insomnia, depression, and anxiety, all of which can affect cognition negatively. Trazodone can also slow down cognitive decline in dementia (4). 

Different studies have shown that trazodone has a positive impact on cognition (4,5). Trazodone improves slow-wave sleep which slows down the aggregation of amyloid-beta protein. Amyloid-beta aggregation results in Alzheimer’s disease (4). 

What are the negative effects of trazodone on the brain?

Some studies have also demonstrated that trazodone can have some side effects on the brain. However, none of the side effects mention that trazodone can kill the brain cells. 

Studies have shown that trazodone can impair cognition, short-term memory, and verbal learning in patients (5,6). However, these effects occur in the initial phase of the treatment and decrease once the body adjusts to the medication (5). 

One animal study observed the effects of trazodone during pregnancy on fetal brain development. Results demonstrated that trazodone interferes with normal cholesterol homeostasis which is essential for brain health (7).

This study concluded that fetal exposure to trazodone may result in neurodevelopmental disorder especially when the child is of a specific genotype. Thus, trazodone should be used cautiously in pregnant women (7). 

What are the long-term effects of trazodone on the brain? 

Long-term treatment of trazodone has positive effects on the brain according to the literature. Studies have shown that acute treatment with trazodone can result in cognitive impairment, primarily due to its sedative effects (5). 

The sedative effects of trazodone can result in daytime drowsiness and grogginess. These effects are called hangover symptoms that may last from a day to a few weeks. 

However, once the body adjusts to the medication, the negative effect of trazodone on cognition is resolved. Long-term treatment of trazodone improves sleep which positively affects memory and cognition (5). 

Thus, long-term treatment with trazodone is safe and well-tolerated and is known to delay cognitive decline in dementia. Long-term treatment with trazodone has positive effects on human cognition as per the research (5). 

What are some signs of brain damage while taking trazodone?

If you are concerned that trazodone can damage your brain, you must be aware of the signs and symptoms that indicate brain damage. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience the following symptoms. 

  • difficulty in understanding others, and processing information
  • difficulty in making decisions, and paying attention
  • difficulty in recalling things which indicates memory problems
  • changes in vision, hearing, and sense of touch
  • issues in balancing
  • increased sensitivity to pain
  • persistent headaches
  • fatigue and tiredness
  • sleep issues
  • tremors
  • seizures
  • paralysis
  • difficulty in speaking
  • increases aggressiveness
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • personality changes 

Your healthcare provider may consider dose reduction or switch to alternate drugs if trazodone is affecting your brain health. It is however not likely to occur as trazodone is safe and tolerated and does not kill brain cells. 

How to protect your brain while taking trazodone?

You can take several measures to protect your brain from the negative effects of trazodone and promote brain health while taking this medication. You must contact your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your brain health. 

To promote brain health, you can do the following: 

  • ensure that you take adequate rest. Your sleep hours must be sufficient so that your brain can function properly. 
  • manage your stress well. Stress and anxiety affect the brain negatively. Therefore you must protect your brain from unnecessary stress. 
  • ensure that you consume nutrients that support your brain health including fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, and vitamins. Highly processed foods and meals high in sugar are not good for brain health. 
  • exercise regularly. Physical activity has a positive impact on your mood and increases the blood flow to your brain. 

In my perspective, trazodone does not kill brain cells. It affects the brain as it influences neurotransmitters, but it is not neurotoxic and neurodegenerative. Studies have revealed that trazodone can protect brain cells. 

The neuroprotective effects of trazodone on the brain are well-established in the research. Moreover, it can delay the cognitive decline in dementia by improving the sleep quality of patients. 

Some negative effects of trazodone on the brain are short-term and are resolved shortly. Long-term treatment with trazodone is safe and well tolerated and has a positive impact on brain cells. 

If you experience the signs of brain damage while taking trazodone, you must contact your healthcare provider. 

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