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Psychiatry & Medication

Selegiline: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions

 June 4, 2020

By  Natalie Kirilova

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The Bottom Line:

  • Selegiline is a medication prescribed for Parkinson’s disease and depression treatment.
  • Off-label uses include anxiety, social phobia, dementia.
  • FDA-approved to treat Parkinson’s disease.
  • Available in tablets and transdermal patches.
  • Requires dietary restrictions if taking tablets.

What is Selegiline?

Selegiline is a medication in the monoamine oxidase inhibitor type B (MAOI-B) class. It is used to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as tremors, motion abnormalities, and depression. Off-label use includes social phobia, anxiety, dementia. Selegiline is occasionally prescribed in combination with other medications to treat Parkinson’s such as Levodopa. 

Brand names for Selegiline include L-deprenyl, Zelapar, and Anipryl (veterinary medicine). It is available as tablets and transdermal patches.

Can Selegiline be taken for Anxiety?

The mechanism of action for anxiety treatment is not clearly understood, however, it is believed to block monoamine oxidase enzymes and balancing neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. Balancing these chemicals can benefit motion response for Parkinson’s disease treatment and improve mood by affecting anxiety symptoms in adults and animals. The brand for veterinary use Anipryl is actively prescribed for anxiety disorders in dogs and cats.

Is Selegiline FDA approved for anxiety?

Both brand forms for Selegiline, El-deprenyl, and Zelapar have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Parkinson’s disease. They are not approved by the FDA for anxiety, but are sometimes used off-label for anxiety in adults and veterinary medicine. Transdermal patches for depression treatment have a black box warning from the FDA. Like other antidepressants, it may increase the potential of suicidal thoughts in adults.

What research supports Selegiline for anxiety? 

The research on Selegiline efficacy for anxiety treatment in humans is less supported than for in animals. However, there is clinical evidence demonstrating its potential use in humans.

  • Selegiline was studied for efficacy in social phobia treatment. 16 subjects took the Selegiline dose of 5mg/daily for 6 weeks. Subjects were seen weekly by a psychiatrist to examine their clinical state and side effects caused by the medication. The results have demonstrated that only 9 subjects completed the study, while the 3 out of total 16 have found Selegiline effective and have been clinically improved with social phobia symptoms.
  • Selegiline transdermal use was studied against the placebo on safety and efficacy in adolescents with depressive and psychotic symptoms. In 12 weeks, Selegiline has been found safe and well-tolerated in all subjects over the placebo, however, with a higher potentiality to side effects.

What do experts say about Selegiline for anxiety?

Andrew Gardiner, chief executive of Syntropharma says “By delivering Selegiline through the skin, the reaction with foodstuffs is avoided, offering for the first time all the reported benefits Selegiline has to offer without the same level of risks.”

What are the possible side effects? 

Selegiline side effects that have been reported during clinical trials include:

  • dizziness;
  • nausea;
  • headache;
  • insomnia;
  • back pain;
  • depression;
  • increased libido;
  • hallucinations;
  • vomiting.

Selegiline withdrawal symptoms after sudden discontinuation of treatment include:

  • chest pain;
  • dropped blood pressure;
  • dizziness;
  • myasthenia.

This medication should be prescribed with caution. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns about its potentiality to increase suicidal thoughts in adults. 

If taking Selegiline alongside Levodopa (a medication used for Parkinson’s disease treatment), you may experience more side effects.

Combination with Levodopa may result in:

  • nausea;
  • tremor;
  • mood changes.

This is not an extensive list of all possible adverse effects. Always speak to your doctor before taking Selegiline.

Does Selegiline have interactions with other medications?

Selegiline may interact with certain medications, including:

  • Antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs);
  • Other monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI);
  • Opioids;
  • Birth control pills;
  • Sympathomimetics;
  • Levodopa;
  • Cytochrome P450 Enzymes.

Use of Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) requires following a certain meal plan for efficient treatment, as food and beverages may interact with Selegiline tablets. Some restricted foods and drinks include:

  • dry sausages, salamis;
  • cheese except for cottage and cream cheese;
  • beans;
  • herring;
  • liver;
  • yogurt;
  • beer and wine.

Selegiline transdermal patches were manufactured to try to avoid food and beverage restrictions.

Always speak to your doctor about all possible interactions to avoid side effects.

Can you take Selegiline while pregnant or breastfeeding? 

There is not enough clinical evidence about the safety of Selegiline in pregnant women. A doctor may occasionally prescribe it if the benefits outweigh the risks. In animal studies, Selegiline use has been linked to low fetus body weight and increased risk of stillbirth. Speak to your doctor if you are pregnant or have childbearing intentions while taking Selegiline.

There is also no known evidence about Selegiline to be excreted into human milk.  

Can children take Selegiline for anxiety? 

Selegiline is not recommended for use in pediatrics. A transdermal patch is contraindicated in children under 12. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) links its danger in young patients to hypertensive effects and risk of suicidal thoughts. 

How to take Selegiline? 

The initial dosage for Parkinson’s disease treatment (alone or alongside Levodopa) is 1.25 mg one time per day. The effect can be felt approximately in a 6 weeks’ time frame. A doctor may increase the dose if there are no significant improvements.

The Selegiline dosage for other health conditions is prescribed individually based on previous treatment, symptoms, age. 

Doctors recommend taking tablets in the morning before meals and without water.

Do not take it prior to sleeping. It may lead to insomnia.

Patients prescribed with a transdermal patch to treat depression should apply it to the skin, and keep it for 24 hours.

Take it as directed. If you experience an overdose, seek emergency help immediately (call 911).

If you skip a dose, take it as soon as you remember, and address this concern with your doctor.

Are there alternatives to Selegiline? 

Prescription medications as Alternatives to Selegiline for Anxiety 

Selegiline is a medication with off-label uses for anxiety treatment. It requires a certain diet plan if you are taking it in tablet form, and may not be fit for your particular case. Speak to your doctor about other prescription medications, such as:

  • Klonopin
  • Valium
  • Lexapro
  • Prozac
  • Buspirone
  • Xanax
  • Inderal
  • Cymbalta
  • Tofranil
  • Hydroxyzine
  • Zoloft

There are various alternatives. If you’d like to learn more about whether Selegiline, another medication or treatment modality is right for you, we recommend that you speak with a licensed psychiatrist. Here are the best online psychiatry platforms so you can speak with someone right away!

Therapy as an Alternative to Selegiline

Learn more about different therapy options for anxiety here

Energy & Holistic Modalities as an Alternative to Selegiline

Learn more about different energy & holistics modalities for anxiety here

Tech & Devices as Alternative Treatments to Selegiline

Learn more about tech & devices for anxiety here

Disclaimer: This website does not provide medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

Natalie Kirilova


Natalie is a writer with a focus in medical research with over 10 years of experience

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