MAOIs for depression in children and teens

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are very rarely given to children or teens and usually are not the first medicines given to treat their depression. This is because these medicines have serious side effects when combined with certain foods or medicines. Moclobemide, a reversible MAOI not available in the United States, is the only MAOI with some evidence to support its use in the treatment of childhood depression.1 No evidence exists that other MAOIs are effective at treating depression in young people, although they are sometimes used when other medicines have failed.

Examples of MAOIs that have been used to treat depression in children and teens include:

  • Phenelzine (Nardil).
  • Tranylcypromine (Parnate).
  • Moclobemide (Manerix, Aurorix). This drug is not available in the United States.

MAOIs sometimes are used to treat unusual symptoms of depression, such as a heavy feeling in the arms and legs or feeling "slowed down."

Side effects of MAOIs can include:

  • Difficulty getting to sleep.
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.
  • Dry mouth, blurred vision, and appetite changes.
  • High blood pressure and changes in heart rate and rhythm.
  • Muscle twitching and feelings of restlessness.
  • Weight gain.
  • Negative interactions with other medicines and some foods.

MAOIs must be discontinued gradually to reduce the chance of withdrawal symptoms. Some drugs must not be used along with MAOIs because serious, sometimes fatal, reactions can occur. Your child will need to wait several weeks after stopping MAOI treatment before starting other drugs.

Certain nonprescription medicines should be avoided, including certain cold remedies and diet pills. Your child must wait at least 14 days after stopping MAOIs before taking another antidepressant.

Serious consequences are possible for the child or teen who takes MAOIs. So discuss with your doctor the dangers and the benefits of MAOIs. Be sure to get a list of foods and other medicines your child must avoid while taking MAOIs.


  1. Hazell P (2007). Depression in children and adolescents, search date April 2005. Online version of Clinical Evidence:

Last Updated: April 16, 2009

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Michael J. Sexton, MD - Pediatrics & Lisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry

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