OverviewDosageSide EffectsInteractionsHalf-Life

Citalopram was the 26th most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States in 2017. In that year alone, there were over 24 million prescriptions. Considering the popularity of this drug, it pays to know a little bit more about it, including how long citalopram stays in your system.

The FDA states the following information regarding citalopram half-life:

Mean terminal half-life: 35 hours

Time to steady-state: 1 week

Mean accumulation ratio: 2.5 times the plasma accumulations based on half life

Citalopram has an oral bioavailability of 80%. The body metabolizes citalopram and turns it into didemethylcitalopram (DDCT), desmethylcitalopram (DCT), a deaminated propionic acid derivative, and citalopram-N-oxide.

The body readily absorbs citalopram as the drug reaches peak blood levels in 4 hours for a 40 mg tablet dosage. The absorption rate is not affected by food, as you can eat it with food or without it. The medication becomes eliminated from the body through urine at 20% as systematic clearance is 330mL/min. For patients who are experiencing reduced renal function, oral clearance of this drug is reduced to 17%.


What is the half-life of citalopram?

Knowing the half-life of citalopram is highly important. The half-life of this medication allows you to understand how long it will stay in your body before it is completely absorbed and cleared. It also allows you to understand how long your body may come to experience side effects. The half-life of citalopram is roughly 35 hours. Yet, every person is different, and the individual taking the medication along with changed doses may lower or increase how long it is in the system.

How long does citalopram stay in your system?

Citalopram is detectable in your system for the following time frames:

  • Your blood for 1 week
  • Your urine for 1 week

Your medical provider may perform a variety of tests such as blood testing, saliva testing, urine testing and hair testing to determine how readily your body absorbs citalopram and how long this medication stays in the system. Taking these tests can help medical providers adjust the recommended dosage to reduce or prevent side effects.

What happens when you stop taking citalopram?

Some people may experience withdrawal syndrome when taken off of citalopram abruptly. Your medical provider will gradually lower the dosage when it comes time to end the treatment so that your body has time to adjust.

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately. To see our full medical disclaimer, visit our Terms of Use page.


Generic Name: Citalopram HBr

Brands: Celexa

Class: Antidepressant [Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI)]

Availability: Prescription only

Molecular Formula: C20H22BrFN2O

Substance UNII: I1E9D14F36

What is Citalopram?

Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) given as a prescription. It is the generic name of the trade name Celexa.

What is Citalopram Used For?

Citalopram is an antidepressant that is used to treat depression. When used as an antidepressant, it is designed to bring about better mental balance by improving a person’s mood by increasing the serotonin levels present in the brain.

During certain occasions, medical professionals may also prescribe this drug to treat other conditions such as alcoholism, eating disorders, social phobia (excessive interaction anxiety), panic disorders, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, according to MedlinePlus. This list of conditions that citalopram is prescribed for is not complete, as you should speak with a medical professional regarding additional uses. Since citalopram can be prescribed for conditions other than what it was originally approved for by the FDA, it is considered an off-label drug and has off-label uses.

How Does Citalopram Work?

Citalopram is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) used to increase the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical created naturally by the body that helps with certain bodily functions, such as digestion and bowel movements. It is also believed that serotonin helps to regulate a person’s mood.

When serotonin levels are low, a person may experience a low mood and symptoms of depression. Citalopram prevents the nerve cells from reabsorbing the serotonin. By blocking this reabsorption, it helps to increase the levels of serotonin that are present for the brain. The higher serotonin levels available for the brain helps to improve the person’s mood.

How Long Does It Take for Citalopram to Work?

Citalopram can take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks before a person starts to see noticeable results. It can be prescribed as a tablet or as a solution. It may be taken with or without food.

Do Not Use Citalopram If:

There are several situations where taking this medication may not be the right choice for a person.  According to the FDA, you should not use citalopram if having these conditions or experiencing these situations:

  • Taking MAOIs
  • After stopping treatment of MAOIs for 14 days
  • Concomitant use of pimozide
  • Having a hypersensitivity to citalopram or its inactive ingredients

Please understand that this list of contradictions may not be complete. There may possibly be other situations where starting the use of this drug is not advisable.

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately. To see our full medical disclaimer, visit our Terms of Use page.

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