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Absorption of the tricyclic and tetracyclic drugs occurs in the small intestine and is rapid and reasonably complete. Peak levels are reached within 2–8 hours following ingestion. Exceptions include protriptyline (peak levels reached between 6 and 12 hours after ingestion) and maprotiline (peak levels not reached until 8 hours or longer). Although peak levels may have implications for side effects, which can occur quickly, the timing of peak levels is relatively unimportant with respect to efficacy because the antidepressant action of these drugs occurs over several weeks.

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Table Reference Number
TABLE 12–2. Dosage, clearance, and apparent therapeutic plasma concentrations of tricyclics and tetracyclics

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