Like so many of the prescription sleep meds, Trazadone (also sold as Desyrel, Oleptro, Beneficat, Deprax, Desirel, Molipaxin, Thombran, Trazorel, Trialodine, Trittico, and Mesyre) was invented as an antidepressant.
In the mid 1960′s, an Italian research lab invented this new “SARI-class” of drug, and in addition to it’s efficacy with depression, it was later discovered early on that it significantly improved insomnia treatment on depressed patients. It seems to work on the non-depressed too.
It also had a side-effect profile that was much lower than other insomnia treatments – the small list includes hypotension (low blood pressure), constipation and priapism.
In several countries, Trazodone is an official prescription insomnia treatment – 100mg seems to be the standard dose. In several more, though, Trazodone is an “off-label” treatment – meaning that it’s not “officially sanctioned” for it’s use with insomnia – but it’s used that way anyways.
In hospitals in Canada (where I live), Trazodone is often given as a first line insomnia drug, because it’s been deemed “less addictive” or “non-addictive” and normally quite effective. For me, it did nothing, although I have friends that use this regularly and swear by it. After long term use they have discovered that it requires a wean to get off the drug, much like benzodiazepines – but I understand that any wean could be quite short (days or weeks).
As with most drugs, there are several interactions to look out for. Mixing trazodone with alcohol is dangerous, as is doing anything that requires concentration (like driving). If you’re going to take the drug, make sure that you understand all the expected and unexpected side effects before you commit.