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How Emsam Helps in Depression Treatment

Emsam patch
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



Medical Disclaimer
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs. Read more

Emsam patch is a medication applied to the skin to treat depression in adults. Although it is not the first-choice drug prescribed for the treatment of the major depressive disorder, the Emsam patch is a good alternative for individuals who don’t like or can’t swallow tablets. Once applied to the skin, the patch steadily releases medication into the bloodstream, helping to restore the balance of brain chemicals whose derangement leads to depression.

Individuals using Emsam patches may find it more convenient to use this form of antidepressant. However, it comes at a slightly higher cost as the drug lacks cheaper generics and has a few specifics the patient should be aware of. Let’s review them in this post.

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What is Emsam Patch, and How Does It Work?

Emsam is the brand name of selegiline, an antidepressant medication belonging to a class of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is an enzyme that breaks down brain chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, contributing to the development of depression. Although it is not fully understood how the Emsam patch treats depression, the inhibition of MAO activity is thought to restore the balance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, alleviating the symptoms.

Selegiline is available in different forms and can be administered by several routes. However, the Emsam patch is only for topical use. It is placed on the skin, from where the medicine enters the bloodstream in small amounts to help improve mood and emotions. Besides the convenience of dosing and administration, the patch form does not interfere with the activity of MAO enzymes in the gut and helps reduce the side effects. Since the MAOI patch does not affect gut activity, tyramine dietary restriction is not necessary when using low-dose Emsam.

Emsam for Depression: Dosage

Emsam medication is available as 6, 9, and 12-mg patches that come in cartons of 30 pieces. The recommended initial dose for the Emsam patch is 6 mg, applied once daily. If the initial dose does not bring the desired effects, the doctor can increase the amount by 3 mg in a 2-week interval until the maximum recommended daily dose of 12 mg is reached.

How to Use the Emsam Patch for Depression

Before applying the selegiline patch, carefully read the patient information leaflet and ask the pharmacist or doctor for clarification if you have any concerns. Ensure you understand how to place a new patch and dispose of the used one.

Emsam patch should be applied exactly as directed. Neither cut the antidepressant patch into smaller pieces nor use it when broken or damaged.

As instructed, thoroughly wash the area intended for applying the patch with soap and water. Rinse and dry the area with a clean towel. Remove the patch foil pouch and apply it to the cleaned area, as illustrated in the medication guide. Tight clothing should not rub against the patch. Therefore, you can apply the selegiline patch in areas such as the upper thigh, torso, or outside of the upper arm. Do not use the drug on broken, oily, hairy, or scarred skin.

Replace the patch after every 24 hours. When removing it, fold the used patch in half so it sticks to itself, then discard it away from children’s reach. Avoid touching the sticky side with bare hands.

Apply a new patch to a different area following the same procedure. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water after handling the selegiline patch.

Consult online doctor for depression to know what treatment option will be the most effective for you.

Emsam (Selegiline) Patch Side Effects

Doctors prescribe this medication when the benefits outweigh the risks. But this does not eliminate the potential risk of Emsam side effects. You might experience some unwanted responses even when taking the Emsam patch in the recommended amount and frequency.

Common selegiline side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Skin irritation around the patch
  • Drowsiness
  • Sleep problems
  • Headache
  • Stomach upset and diarrhea
  • Skin rash

Notably, not everyone using the Emsam patch experiences these side effects, which are mostly mild and disappear as the body gets used to the medication. However, if the symptoms become bothersome, contact your doctor promptly.

Selegiline mechanism of action

Selegiline Interaction with Other Drugs

While Emsam is relatively safe, it can interact with several prescribed and non-prescribed medications, including herbal products, and produce severe adverse reactions. Thus, informing your doctor about your current medicines before taking Emsam is critical in preventing such eventualities.

Drug interactions affect how the medicine works and can precipitate adverse reactions if not well managed. Medications that can interact with the Emsam patch include:

  • Other MAO inhibitors, such as isocarboxazid and methylene blue
  • Stimulants like amphetamines
  • Nasal decongestants such as phenylephrine and phenylpropanolamine
  • ADHD medications such as methylphenidate and atomoxetine
  • Triptans for migraine headaches, including rizatriptan
  • Supplements like tyramine
  • Street drugs such as LSD and mescaline

Tell the doctor about your health history and the medicines you are taking or were taking recently to get the most suitable medication.


Selegiline patches can worsen or induce suicidal thoughts and tendencies, such as thoughts of self-harm and aggression. If you experience it when using the drug, talk to your doctor.

Potentially life-threatening serotonin syndrome can occur with selegiline patch use. Simultaneous use of Emsam and particular drugs, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), increase the risk of serotonin syndrome and should be avoided.

Also, using the Emsam patch is not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Emsam (selegiline) patch is a monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitor for treating depression in adults. Although not a first-choice antidepressant drug, it is a good alternative, especially for individuals who cannot take oral medications. If you want to know more about the available pharmacological treatment options for depression and get a personalized treatment plan, contact MEDvidi doctors.

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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



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