Serotonin syndrome is a potentially life threatening drug reaction that causes the body to have too much serotonin, a chemical produced by nerve cells.
Hyperserotonemia; Serotonergic syndrome
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Serotonin syndrome most often occurs when two drugs that affect the body's level of serotonin are taken together at the same time. The drugs cause too much serotonin to be released or to remain in the brain area.
For example, you can develop this syndrome if you take migraine medicines called triptans together with antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SSNRIs). Popular SSRI's include Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Lexapro. SNRI's include Cymbalta and Effexor. Brand names of triptans include Imitrex, Zomig, Frova, Maxalt, Axert, Amerge, and Relpax.
The FDA recently asked the manufacturers of these types of drugs to include warning labels on their products that tell you about the potential risk of serotonin syndrome. Talk to your doctor before stopping any medication.
Serotonin syndrome is more likely to occur when you first start or increase the medicine.
Older antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) can also cause serotonin syndrome with the medicines describe above, as well as meperidine (Demerol, a painkiller) or dextromethorphan (cough medicine).
Drugs of abuse, such as ecstasy and LSD have also been associated with serotonin syndrome.
Review Date: 06/30/2010
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.