Generic Name: Phenelzine (FEN-el-zeen)

Drug Class: Antidepressant, MAO inhibitor


Drug Uses

Phenelzine is used to treat depression. Your doctor may prescribe this medicine for other conditions such as eating disorders, headaches, panic attacks and cocaine addiction.

General Information

With MAO inhibitors you should avoid foods such as alcoholic beverages, especially beer, red wines, aged cheeses, sauerkraut, yogurt, raisins, bananas, sour cream, pickled herring, liver, dry sausage, canned figs, avocados, soy sauce, turkey, yeast extracts, papaya products, fava beans and broad been pods. These foods contain tyramine or tryptophan and should not be taken with this medicine and for 2 weeks following the discontinuation of this drug.

How it Works

It works by helping to restore the balance of certain natural chemicals in the brain. These chemicals are referred to as "neurotransmitters".

How to Take It

Follow the directions for taking this medicine exactly as prescribed on your prescription bottle. Phenelzine comes as a tablet and is taken orally. Do not take more or less of this medication than your doctor has told you to. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and chocolate. See the General Information section for other foods to avoid.

Possible Side Effects

    • The following common side effects have been reported with the use of phenelzine:
      • drowsiness
      • weakness
      • upset stomach
      • anxiety
      • insomnia
      • nightmares
      • dry mouth
      • changes in appetite

    • Contact your doctor right away if these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
      • constipation
      • difficulty or frequent unrination
      • blurred vision
      • sweating
      • sexual difficulties


    • Tell your doctor if you are allergic to phenelzine or Nardil.

    • Avoid alcoholic beverages while taking this medicine.

    • Be cautious when driving or performing other hazardous activities. This medicine can impair judgment.

    • This medicine can cause dizziness or drowsiness.

    • Cigarette smoking may decrease the effectiveness of this drug. Talk to your doctor if you smoke.


    • Seek medical attention immediately. For non emergencies, contact your local or regional poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

Drug Interactions

    • MAO inhibitors should not be taken while taking the following drugs:
      • dexfenfluramine
      • fluoxetine (Prozac)
      • fluvoxamine (Luvox)
      • paroxetine (Paxil)
      • sertraline (Zoloft)
      • venlafaxine (Effexor or Effexor XR)

    • Tell your doctor if you are taking other antidepressants, medications for blood pressure, medications for diabetes, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, vitamins or herbs.

Missed Dose

Take your next dose as soon as you remember. If it is time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular schedule. Do not double doses.


Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture. Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed.


If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor about possible risks to your pregnancy. For breastfeeding mothers, it is not know whether or not phenelzine is excreted in breast milk. Before breastfeeding with this medicine, talk to your doctor or pediatrician.

More Information

For more information, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or health care provider.

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 May 2015
    Published on All rights reserved.