Depression Home > Nardil

Nardil is an antidepressant that can be prescribed to treat depression in adults. It is part of a class of drugs called monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and helps to improve depression symptoms by increasing the amount of monoamines in the brain. Nardil comes in tablet form and is generally taken three times a day. Possible side effects of the medication include drowsiness, fatigue, and dizziness.

What Is Nardil?

Nardil® (phenelzine sulfate) is a prescription medication that is used to treat depression (also known as major depression or clinical depression). Because this medication has numerous potentially lethal drug and food interactions, it is often used as a last resort, when other antidepressants have failed.
(Click Nardil Uses for more information on what the drug is used for, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes Nardil?

Nardil is made by Pfizer.

How Does It Work?

Nardil belongs to a class of medications called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
To better understand how these medications work, it's important to understand how brain cells communicate with each other. Monoamines are special chemicals that carry messages from one brain cell to another. These messages can include information about many things, including your emotions. Some examples of the monoamines that help transmit these messages include:
  • Dopamine
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine
  • Serotonin
  • Melatonin
  • Histamine.
When a message (electrical impulse) reaches the end of one brain cell, monoamines are released into the gap between the cells. Here, they quickly travel across the gap until they reach a receptor on the next cell, settling in like a key in a lock. This triggers the electrical impulse to continue through the next cell and on to its final destination. Once the message has been transmitted, the monoamines in the gap are either reabsorbed by the first cell or broken down by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase.
If a person has low levels of monoamines in the brain, it can reduce the amount of communication between the brain cells and cause the person to feel depressed. MAOI medications improve the communication between brain cells by blocking the action of monoamine oxidase. This increases the amount of monoamines in the brain and, thus, improves a person's depression symptoms.
Unfortunately, monoamine oxidase is also responsible for breaking down tyramine, a naturally occurring chemical that affects blood pressure. MAOI medications prevent the body from breaking down tyramine and can cause a person's tyramine levels to become too high (which can be extremely dangerous). Because the chemical is found in many foods and beverages, people taking MAOI medications must follow a strict diet (see Nardil Food Interactions for more information).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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