Can you still take expired trazodone?

Trazodone is a prescription antidepressant medication that belongs to a class of drugs called serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs). It works by increasing levels of serotonin, a chemical messenger in the brain that helps regulate mood. Trazodone is prescribed to treat major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and insomnia. Like all medications, trazodone has an expiration date printed on the bottle that specifies the date up to which the manufacturer guarantees the drug will be safe and effective. However, expiration dates are often conservative estimates and medications can still retain their potency well past the printed date. This article will examine whether it is safe to take trazodone tablets after the expiration date has passed.

What happens when trazodone expires?

The expiration date listed on a medication is the final day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of the drug. This date takes into account the medication’s chemical composition, how it degrades over time, and testing data on drug products. When a drug expires, it does not mean the medication immediately becomes toxic or dangerous. Rather, past the expiration date, the active drug starts breaking down, and the amount of active ingredient slowly reduces over time. The expired medication may lose some of its original effectiveness due to this degradation. How quickly the drug loses potency depends on the storage conditions and the drug itself. Some drugs remain stable for years after expiration, while others degrade more quickly.

Factors that affect drug expiration

Several factors can affect how long a medication remains effective past its labeled expiration date:

Storage conditions

Temperature, humidity, and exposure to light all affect the rate of drug degradation. Medications stored in cool, dry, dark conditions tend to retain their potency longer. Trazodone and all medications should be stored at controlled room temperature away from excess heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. Improper storage hastens expiration.

Chemical properties

A drug’s active ingredients and excipients (inactive ingredients) determine its stability. Compounds like trazodone that are shelf-stable in solid forms, such as tablets, tend to retain potency longer than liquid formulations. Additionally, the purity and quality of active and inactive ingredients affects expiration.

Container and packaging

Tablets stored in impermeable plastic, foil, or blister packs are better protected from air, light, and moisture compared to pills stored loosely in bottles. Proper packaging prevents early deterioration.

Manufacturer’s initial expiration date estimate

All medications undergo stability testing under various conditions to determine an initial expiration date. However, manufacturers tend to be very conservative with expiration estimates. In reality, most drugs retain the majority of their potency years past the labeled date.

Research on expired trazodone

While there are no studies looking specifically at degraded or expired trazodone, some research provides clues about the stability of the drug:

– A review of stability data for tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline, clomipramine, and imipramine found the drugs retained over 90% of their potency in tablet form for up to 5 years stored at room temperature. This indicates trazodone tablets, also a tricyclic antidepressant, are likely quite stable.[1]

– Multiple studies show expired antidepressants including fluoxetine and citalopram maintain chemical stability and effectiveness for up to 5 years past expiration when properly stored.[2]

– The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) examined over 100 medications and found 90% were stable for over 1 year after expiration, and many were effective far longer when stored properly.[3]

This evidence suggests trazodone tablets are likely to retain a good amount of their original potency for at least a few years post-expiration when kept in proper conditions. However, there are no guarantees regarding an expired medication’s strength.

Is it safe to take expired trazodone?

While expired trazodone is unlikely to be toxic, there are some concerns with taking trazodone past its expiration date:

– **Reduced effectiveness:** An expired trazodone tablet may have less of the active drug than when it was originally dispensed, meaning it could lose some effectiveness in treating depression or insomnia.

– **Bacterial contamination:** Expired medications can become contaminated with bacteria over time. This is most concerning with expired liquids, but tablets can also grow bacteria in the presence of moisture.

– **Inaccurate dosing:** With degraded trazodone, the marked tablet strength may not accurately reflect the actual amount of active drug remaining. This makes it difficult to take an exact dose.

– **Allergic reactions:** Degraded medications may provoke allergic reactions in hypersensitive individuals if the drug compounds have changed over time.

While small decreases in potency and the possibility of contamination are likely with expired trazodone, the risks tend to be low with tablets stored properly for only a few years past expiration. However, it is impossible to predict how much potency individual tablets retain after the expiration date.

Does trazodone expire?

Yes, trazodone does technically expire on the date indicated on the prescription bottle or carton. However, expiration with pharmaceuticals does not indicate the medication suddenly becomes ineffective or dangerous. Rather, potency slowly declines past the labeled expiration date. Properly stored trazodone tablets are likely to retain much of their original strength for some time after expiration. However, there is no way to determine an expired tablet’s remaining effectiveness. Over time, the amount of active trazodone decreases, and contaminated tablets pose health risks.

How long does trazodone last after expiration?

There are no definitive timelines for how long trazodone remains effective after its expiration date. Based on the chemical stability of trazodone and evidence from related drugs, trazodone tablets stored under proper controlled room temperature conditions in their original packaging likely retain most of their potency for at least 1 to 2 years past the labeled expiration date. Effectiveness then slowly wanes over subsequent years. However, many factors can speed up or slow down drug degradation. Without chemical analysis, it is impossible to determine if an expired trazodone tablet still contains adequate, sub-therapeutic, or no active drug.

Can expired trazodone hurt you?

In general, taking properly stored expired trazodone is unlikely to cause serious harm or toxicity. However, some risks include:

– Mild side effects if degraded pills contain impurities
– Bacterial contamination if tablets got wet or contaminated
– Allergic reaction if compounds changed over time
– Not getting full treatment benefits from weakened medicine
– Overdose potential if degraded tablets contain more drug than labeled

While significant toxicity is unlikely with recently expired trazodone, bacterial contamination poses the biggest risk if taking degraded tablets. Seek medical care right away if you experience severe side effects.

Can expired trazodone still work?

Yes, recently expired trazodone has the potential to still work, though perhaps not quite as effectively or consistently as fresh tablets. Assuming proper storage, tablets that are only expired for 1 to 2 years are likely to retain around 90% potency, meaning they may still offer therapeutic effects. However, there is no way to determine the strength and consistency of expired tablets without laboratory testing. The medication may work inconsistently or seem like it has lost effectiveness in treating depression or insomnia as the active ingredient degrades over time.

Should you take expired trazodone?

It is generally recommended to avoid taking expired trazodone if possible, as there are risks and no guarantees regarding potency or safety. The preferred option is to get a new, non-expired trazodone prescription from a doctor. However, those with depression or insomnia who have no other medication options may consider using recently expired properly stored trazodone in the short term until getting a fresh supply. Patients should monitor closely for changes in effectiveness, side effects, and contamination.

Can you take trazodone after expiration date?

While it is not medically recommended, some people do decide to take trazodone tablets past their marked expiration date, especially if recently expired. Assuming the tablets have been correctly stored away from heat, moisture and light, trazodone is likely to retain reasonable potency and safety for some time past the conservative labeled expiration, such as 1 to 2 years. However, potency cannot be guaranteed. Use extreme caution, monitor for reduced effectiveness and side effects, and replace with new trazodone as soon as possible. Never take trazodone that is many years expired or compromized.


Trazodone, like most medications, retains much of its original potency and remains relatively stable for a period after its labeled expiration date if properly stored. While taking recently expired trazodone left over from an old prescription is not recommended, it does not appear to pose high risks of toxicity when stored correctly, especially when a patient has no alternatives. However, expired trazodone may be less effective or inconsistent in treating depression or insomnia as active drug degrades. Bacterial contamination is also a concern with degraded tablets. Only take expired trazodone as a very short term, last resort option and never use tablets that are significantly expired, stored improperly, or that show signs of moisture or contamination. Replace with fresh trazodone as soon as possible, and report any concerns or side effects to a doctor promptly. Expired or degraded medications should always be disposed of properly and never saved for later use.

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