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Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors

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Mono-amine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) are medicines that relieve certain types of mental depression.


MAO inhibitors are a type of anti-depressant and are used to treat mental depression. Like other Anti-depressant Drugs, MAO Inhibitors help reduce the extreme sadness, hopelessness, and lack of interest in life that are typical in people with depression. MAO Inhibitors are especially useful in treating people whose depression is combined with other problems such as anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, or the desire to sleep too much.


Discovered in the 1950s, MAO Inhibitors work by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. Normally, natural chemicals called Neuro-transmitters carry signals from one brain cell to another. Some Neuro-transmitters, such as Serotonin and Norepinephrine, play important roles in controlling mood. But other substances in the brain may interfere with mood control by breaking down these Neuro-transmitters. Researchers believe that MAO Inhibitors work by blocking the chemicals that break down Serotonin and Norepinephrine. This gives the Neuro-transmitters more time to do their important work.

Because MAO Inhibitors also affect other chemicals throughout the body, these drugs may produce many unwanted side effects. They can be especially dangerous when taken with certain foods, beverages and medicines. Anyone taking these drugs should ask his or her physician or pharmacist for a list of products to avoid.

MAO Inhibitors are available only with a physician's prescription. They are sold in tablet form. Some commonly used MAO Inhibitors are Isocarboxazid (Marplan), Phenelzine (Nardil), and Tranylcypromine (Parnate).