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Monoamine oxidase inhibitor

Synonyms: MAO-inhibitor, MAOI
German: Monoaminoxidase-Hemmer

1 Definition

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors are substances that belong to the group of antidepressive drugs. They are administered for treatment of depression and also for Parkinson’s disease (antiparkinsonian agent). In Germany they are only available on prescription.

2 Mechanism of action

The mechanism of action of MAO inhibitors is in inhibition of the monoaminoxidase enzymes, which are responsible for the metabolism of biogenic amines. The inhibition of the enzymes leads to the slowed breaking down of various neurotransmitters, including noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin as well as a few hormones such as adrenaline. This leads to an increase in neurotransmitter availability for signal transmission in the cerebral metabolism which has a positive effect on certain forms of depression. However the entire complexity of the interplay between transmitters and psychological symptoms has not been fully understood.

3 Classification

The monoaminoxidase inhibitors can be categorized using the following aspects:

3.1 Reversibility of effect

3.2 Effected type of enzyme

  • MAO-A inhibitors
  • MAO-B inhibitors

4 Substances

5 Abuse of MAO inhibitors

In the drug scene MAO inhibitors are used for the specific goal of getting a high. For example some plants contain natural MAO inhibitors, such as harmaline which is used alongside the hallucinogenic tryptamines, in order to increase their potency. Harmaline is also consumed mixed with dimethyltryptamine which makes an effect after oral intake possible. In this case the mechanism of action is also the inhibition of the monoaminoxidase enzyme, which leads to certain amines remaining longer in the circulation. This also explains why certain drugs have a longer or stronger effect when administered alongside MAO inhibitors.

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