Phenelzine

Generic Name: phenelzine (FEN-el-zeen)
Brand Name: Nardil

Antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or actions in children, teenagers, and young adults. However, depression and certain other mental problems may also increase the risk of suicide. Talk with the patient's doctor to be sure that the benefits of using phenelzine outweigh the risks.

Family and caregivers must closely watch patients who take phenelzine. It is important to keep in close contact with the patient's doctor. Tell the doctor right away if the patient has symptoms like worsened depression, suicidal thoughts, or changes in behavior. Discuss any questions with the patient's doctor.

Phenelzine is not approved for use in children. Talk with the doctor.


Phenelzine is used for:

Treating depression in patients who do not respond well to other medicines. It may also be used for other conditions as determined by your doctor.

Phenelzine is a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). It works by increasing certain chemicals in the brain that help elevate mood.

Do NOT use phenelzine if:

  • you are allergic to any ingredient in phenelzine
  • you have a history of alcohol abuse or stroke
  • you have heart disease, blood vessel disease in the brain, congestive heart failure, schizophrenia, severe headaches, liver problems, abnormal liver function tests, high blood pressure, severe kidney problems, severely decreased kidney function, or an adrenal gland tumor
  • you will be having surgery
  • you eat foods with a high tyramine content (eg, aged cheeses, sour cream, red wines, beer, bologna, pepperoni, salami, summer sausage, pickled herring, liver, meat prepared with tenderizers, canned figs, raisins, bananas, avocados, soy sauce, fava beans, yeast extracts), drink alcohol, or consume large quantities of caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate, or cola)
  • you are taking an amphetamine (eg, methylphenidate), an anesthetic, an anorexiant (eg, phentermine), an antihistamine (eg, loratadine), apraclonidine, brimonidine, bupropion, buspirone, carbamazepine, cyclobenzaprine, dextromethorphan, dibenzazepine, a diuretic (eg, hydrochlorothiazide), entacapone, an herbal product, indoramin, levodopa, meperidine, methylphenidate, a narcotic, nefazodone, other medicines for Parkinson disease, papaverine, a sedative, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) (eg, atomoxetine), sibutramine, a sympathomimetic (eg, pseudoephedrine), a tetracyclic antidepressant (eg, trazodone), tolcapone, tramadol, a tricyclic antidepressant (eg, amitriptyline), or a triptan (eg, sumatriptan)
  • you have taken linezolid, an MAOI (eg, selegiline), or a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) (eg, paroxetine) within the last 14 days
  • you have taken fluoxetine within the past 5 weeks

Contact your doctor or health care provider right away if any of these apply to you.

Slideshow: Depression, the Risk of Suicide, and Treatment Options

Before using phenelzine:

Some medical conditions may interact with phenelzine. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have any medical conditions, especially if any of the following apply to you:

  • if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding
  • if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine, herbal preparation, or dietary supplement
  • if you have allergies to medicines, foods, or other substances
  • if you have asthma, bipolar mood disorder, bronchitis, an irregular heartbeat, diabetes, epilepsy, an overactive thyroid, Parkinson disease, the blood disease porphyria, kidney problems, or suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • if you are taking a medicine that contains methylene blue

Some MEDICINES MAY INTERACT with phenelzine. Tell your health care provider if you are taking any other medicines, especially any of the following:

  • Many prescription and nonprescription medicines (eg, used for diabetes, depression, headaches, pain, cold and flu, high blood pressure, seizures) may interact with phenelzine and increase the risk of serious, life-threatening side effects.

This may not be a complete list of all interactions that may occur. Ask your health care provider if phenelzine may interact with other medicines that you take. Check with your health care provider before you start, stop, or change the dose of any medicine.

How to use phenelzine:

Use phenelzine as directed by your doctor. Check the label on the medicine for exact dosing instructions.

  • Phenelzine comes with an additional patient information sheet called a Medication Guide. Read it carefully and reread it each time you get phenelzine refilled.
  • Phenelzine may be taken with or without food.
  • Continue to take phenelzine even if you feel better. Do not miss any doses.
  • If you miss a dose of phenelzine, take it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take 2 doses at once.

Ask your health care provider any questions you may have about how to use phenelzine.

Important safety information:

  • Phenelzine may cause drowsiness or dizziness. Do not drive, operate machinery, or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how you react to phenelzine. Using phenelzine alone, with certain other medicines, or with alcohol may lessen your ability to drive or perform other potentially dangerous tasks.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or taking other medicines that cause drowsiness (eg, sedatives, tranquilizers) while taking phenelzine. Phenelzine will add to the effects of alcohol and other depressants. Ask your pharmacist if you have questions about which medicines are depressants.
  • Phenelzine may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting. Alcohol, hot weather, exercise, and fever can increase these effects. To prevent them, sit up or stand slowly, especially in the morning. Also, sit or lie down at the first sign of dizziness, lightheadedness, or weakness.
  • Children, teenagers, and young adults who take phenelzine may be at increased risk for suicidal thoughts or actions. Watch all patients who take phenelzine closely. Contact the doctor at once if new, worsened, or sudden symptoms such as depressed mood; anxious, restless, or irritable behavior; panic attacks; or any unusual change in mood or behavior occur. Contact the doctor right away if any signs of suicidal thoughts or actions occur.
  • Avoid large amounts of food or drink that have caffeine (eg, coffee, tea, cocoa, cola, chocolate).
  • Phenelzine may cause serious increases in blood pressure if certain foods are eaten. Avoid eating foods such as aged cheeses, sour cream, red wines, beer, bologna, pepperoni, salami, summer sausage, pickled herring, liver, meat prepared with tenderizers, canned figs, raisins, bananas, avocados, soy sauce, fava beans, or yeast extracts. Obtain a complete list of foods and beverages from your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Tell your doctor or dentist that you take phenelzine before you receive any medical or dental care, emergency care, or surgery.
  • Diabetes patients - Phenelzine may affect your blood sugar. Check blood sugar levels closely. Ask your doctor before you change the dose of your diabetes medicine.
  • Use phenelzine with caution in the ELDERLY; they may be more sensitive to its effects.
  • Phenelzine should not be used in CHILDREN younger than 16 years old; safety and effectiveness in these children have not been confirmed. CHILDREN taking phenelzine may be at increased risk for suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
  • PREGNANCY and BREAST-FEEDING: If you become pregnant, contact your doctor. You will need to discuss the benefits and risks of using phenelzine while you are pregnant. It is not known if phenelzine is found in breast milk. If you are or will be breast-feeding while you use phenelzine, check with your doctor. Discuss any possible risks to your baby.

If you stop taking phenelzine suddenly, you may have WITHDRAWAL symptoms. These may include nausea, vomiting, and a general feeling of discomfort.

Possible side effects of phenelzine:

All medicines may cause side effects, but many people have no, or minor, side effects. Check with your doctor if any of these most COMMON side effects persist or become bothersome:

Changes in sexual function; constipation; dizziness; drowsiness; headache; sleeping problems; tiredness; tremors; twitching; unusual muscle movements; upset stomach; weakness; weight gain.

Seek medical attention right away if any of these SEVERE side effects occur:

Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); agitation; changes in heartbeat; chest pain; difficulty sleeping; feelings of irritability or hostility; impulsive behavior or other unusual changes in behavior; mental or mood changes; nausea; neck stiffness; panic attacks; severe anxiety or nervousness; severe headache; severe restlessness; suicidal thoughts or behaviors; urination problems; vomiting; worsening feelings of depression.

This is not a complete list of all side effects that may occur. If you have questions about side effects, contact your health care provider. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. To report side effects to the appropriate agency, please read the Guide to Reporting Problems to FDA.

If OVERDOSE is suspected:

Contact 1-800-222-1222 (the American Association of Poison Control Centers), your local poison control center, or emergency room immediately. Symptoms may include confusion; dizziness; drowsiness; excitement; fast heartbeat; flushing; irritability; restlessness; seizures; sweating; weakness.

Proper storage of phenelzine:

Store phenelzine at room temperature, between 59 and 86 degrees F (15 and 30 degrees C). Store away from heat, moisture, and light. Do not store in the bathroom. Keep phenelzine out of the reach of children and away from pets.

General information:

  • If you have any questions about phenelzine, please talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care provider.
  • Phenelzine is to be used only by the patient for whom it is prescribed. Do not share it with other people.
  • If your symptoms do not improve or if they become worse, check with your doctor.
  • Check with your pharmacist about how to dispose of unused medicine.

This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take phenelzine or any other medicine. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for you. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about phenelzine. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to phenelzine. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You must talk with your healthcare provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using phenelzine.

Issue Date: September 3, 2014
Database Edition 14.3.1.003
Copyright © 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

Disclaimer: This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this medicine or any other medicine. Only your health care provider has the knowledge and training to decide which medicines are right for you. This information does not endorse any medicine as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this medicine. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this medicine. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You must talk with your healthcare provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this medicine.

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