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Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors

Overview :

Discovered in the 1950s, MAO inhibitors work by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. Normally, natural chemicals called neurotransmitters carry signals from one brain cell to another. Some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, play important roles in controlling mood. But other substances in the brain may interfere with mood control by breaking down these neurotransmitters. Researchers believe that MAO inhibitors work by blocking the chemicals that break down serotonin and norepinephrine. This gives the neurotransmitters more time to do their important work.

Because MAO inhibitors also affect other chemicals throughout the body, these drugs may produce many unwanted side effects. They can be especially dangerous when taken with certain foods, beverages and medicines. Anyone taking these drugs should ask his or her physician or pharmacist for a list of products to avoid.

MAO inhibitors are available only with a physician's prescription. They are sold in tablet form. Some commonly used MAO inhibitors are isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), and tranylcypromine (Parnate).

Recommended dosage

The recommended dosage depends on the type of MAO inhibitor and the type of depression for which it is being taken. Dosages may be different for different patients. Check with the physician who prescribed the drug or the pharmacist who filled the prescription for the correct dosage.

Always take MAO inhibitors exactly as directed by your physician. Never take larger or more frequent doses, and do not take the drug for longer than directed. See the physician regularly while taking this medicine, especially in the first few months of treatment. The physician will check to make sure the medicine is working as it should and will note unwanted side effects. The physician may also need to adjust the dosage during this period.

Several weeks may be needed for the effects of this medicine to be felt. Be sure to keep taking it as directed, even if it does not seem to be helping.

Do not stop taking this medicine suddenly. Tapering the dose may be necessary to reduce the chance of withdrawal symptoms. If it is necessary to stop taking the drug, check with the physician who prescribed it for instructions on how to stop.

MAO inhibitors may be taken with or without food, on a full or empty stomach. Check package directions or ask the physician or pharmacist for instructions on how to take the medicine. Remember that some foods and beverages must be avoided during treatment with MAO inhibitors.

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