by Carson-DeWitt R

Medications for Narcolepsy

The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, talk to your doctor.

Prescription Medications

  • Mazindol (Mazanor, Sanorex)
  • Modafinil (Provigil)
  • Armodafinil (Nuvigil)
  • Methylphenidate
  • Dextroamphetamine
  • Sodium oxybate (Xyrem)
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Desipramine (Norpramin)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Protriptyline (Vivactil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
Common names include:
  • Modafinil (Provigil)
  • Armodafinil (Nuvigil)
  • Mazindol (Mazanor, Sanorex)
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine)
Stimulants can help you be more alert and awake. While using stimulant medications, you should take the following precautions:
  • To avoid difficulty sleeping at night, ask your doctor about taking your last dose before 6:00 pm.
  • Do not suddenly stop taking a stimulant drug.
  • Have your doctor approve any other medications you take while you are using stimulant medications. Stimulants can interact with a number of over-the-counter medications.
  • If you are taking sustained-release tablets, never crush or chew them.
  • If you have a history of seizures, tell your doctor. Your medications will have to be carefully chosen.
You may experience the following side effects:
  • Decreased appetite with potential weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased agitation, anxiety, jitteriness, or jumpiness
  • Vomiting, nausea, decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate and arrhythmia
  • Lightheadedness, drowsiness, or blurred vision
  • Serious rash
Note: You may notice these things when you first begin taking a stimulant medication. Until you know how the medication will affect you, you should avoid driving, operating machinery, and doing hazardous activities.
Anticataplexy Medication
  • Sodium oxybate (Xyrem)
Sodium oxybate is used to treat cataplexy. It is a drug that can be abused, so it is a controlled substance. Abuse can cause serious problems, such as trouble breathing, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, and death. Abuse can also lead to dependence, craving, and withdrawal symptoms. If you are prescribed sodium oxybate, you will have to get the medicine from one central pharmacy. It is not available anywhere else.
Sodium oxybate can reduce the number of cataplexy attacks. But, it must be taken exactly as prescribed. The medicine works very fast, so you need to take it only when you are ready to fall asleep. Sodium oxybate must be taken in two doses each night. The first dose is taken right at bedtime and the second dose is taken 2-1/2 to 4 hours later. You will probably need to wake yourself up to take the second dose. The most common side effects are nausea, lightheadedness, headache, sleep problems, confusion, vomiting, and bed-wetting.
Do not engage in activities that require alertness, such as driving, for six hours after taking the medication. Do not use alcohol or other sedatives while taking this medicine. Your doctor must instruct you in the safe and effective use of this medicine.
Tricyclic Antidepressants
Common names include:
  • Imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Desipramine (Norpramin)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Protriptyline (Vivactil)
You may be given a tricyclic antidepressant if you have symptoms, such as attacks of weakness, hallucinations as sleep begins, or sleep paralysis. To avoid stomach upset, take your tricyclic antidepressants with food, unless your doctor has told you otherwise.
Possible side effects include:
  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness, drowsiness, or blurred vision
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Increased effects from alcohol, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, or sedatives
  • Sensitivity to sun
  • Blood sugar changes in people with diabetes
  • Hyperthermia—elevated body temperature
  • Risk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients. Young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
Common names include:
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
You may be given an SSRI to treat weakness, hallucinations as sleep begins, or sleep paralysis. If this medication upsets your stomach, you can take it with food.
Do not take monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors:
  • During SSRI therapy
  • For two weeks prior to starting SSRI therapy
  • For five weeks after stopping SSRI therapy
Serious side effects of SSRI antidepressants include:
  • Anxiety
  • Mania
  • Serious weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Seizures
  • Low blood sugar in people with diabetes
  • Lightheadedness, drowsiness, or blurred vision
  • Arrhythmia
  • Risk of severe mood and behavior changes, including suicidal thoughts in some patients. Young adults may be at a higher risk for this side effect.
Note: You may notice these symptoms when you first begin taking a medication. Until you know how the medication will affect you, you should avoid driving, operating machinery, and doing hazardous activities.

Special Considerations

If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
  • Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
  • Do not share them.
  • Ask what the results and side effects may be. Report them to your doctor.
  • Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medication and herb or dietary supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you do not run out.


Narcolepsy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated January 4 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Narcolepsy fact sheet. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: Updated December 28, 2011. Accessed May 18, 2016.

Narcolepsy. American Sleep Association website. Available at: Updated September 2007. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Antidepressant use in children, adolescents, and adults. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: Updated May 13, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2016.
Xyrem (sodium oxybate) information. Center for Drug Evaluation and Research website. Available at: Updated July 24, 2015. Accessed May 18, 2016.
2/18/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Serretti A, Mandelli L. Antidepressants and body weight: a comprehensive review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry. 2010;71(10):1259-1272.

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