Antidepressant Addiction And Abuse

Even when a medical professional has prescribed antidepressants, people are at risk of developing an antidepressant addiction.


Doctors prescribe antidepressants to treat moderate to severe depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), among other issues. The most common antidepressants include norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Antidepressant Addiction


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Are Antidepressants Addictive?

Typically, doctors don’t consider antidepressants addictive, though the drugs may cause physical dependence. Many people, when they reduce or stop taking antidepressants, do develop withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, depression, and hand tremors.

However, not many people give up on their daily obligations to look for antidepressants since the reward isn’t as satisfying as other substances – for example, antidepressants do not have an intense euphoric rush like dopamine. Many people resort to snorting the antidepressant Wellbutrin when their drug of choice is unavailable, though Wellbutrin fails to create an addiction.

Antidepressant Addiction Vs. Dependence

Dependence happens when one’s body adapts to a drug after regularly taking them. Addiction to an antidepressant is a chronic disease created and emanating from various sources, including environmental, genetic, or psychological factors. Addiction to antidepressants may cause one to continuously use the drug even when they lead to harm, impaired control over the drug, and compulsive use.

The Most Common Types Of Antidepressant Drugs

Antidepressant drugs are available in either capsules or oral tablets. These drugs may be ingested, snorted, placed under the tongue, crushed, taken rectally. The half-life of SSRIs may last from twenty-four hours to six days, and SNRIs last for around five to twelve hours. Some common antidepressant types include:
  • SSRIs change the chemical balance of serotonin, meaning it changes your mood, can make you feel optimistic, and treat depression.
  • SNRIs boost your mood by interacting with serotonin or norepinephrine in your brain.
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs) are pills that include doxepin, desipramine, clomipramine, etc.
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) offer effective treatments for social phobia and panic disorder.
  • Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs) block the actions of specific transporter proteins. As a result, they increase the number of active dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • Serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs) must be approved to treat a major depressive disorder, though they also treat insomnia and anxiety off-label.
  • Miscellaneous antidepressants contain all antidepressants that do not fall on any of the above lists, including Trintellix, Aplenzin (Pro), Wellbutrin XL (Pro), etc.

Antidepressant Addiction And Abuse

Doctors often prescribe SNRI and SSRI antidepressants as safer alternatives to benzodiazepines because antidepressants have a lower risk for abuse, while benzos can be highly addictive.

Antidepressant Addiction Statistics

Antidepressant addiction is becoming an epidemic. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that many adults take antidepressants medications actively. Antidepressant abuse among women (17.7%) was higher than among men (8.4%). Antidepressant addiction rate also increased with age for both genders, but women had a higher rate of antidepressant use for ages sixty and over.

Antidepressant Addiction Symptoms

Antidepressant addiction symptoms may depend on the severity of the addiction, length of drug use, and more. Symptoms include:

  • Taking more antidepressants for more extended periods.
  • Continued use even after it causes harm.
  • Tolerance to antidepressants.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when usage is reduced or stopped.
  • Antidepressant cravings.
  • Unsuccessfully trying to control antidepressant usage.
  • Repeatedly using antidepressants in physically dangerous circumstances or situations.
  • When antidepressant usage interferes with school, relationships, work, or family responsibilities.

Antidepressant Addiction Side Effects And Dangers

Antidepressants may take a while before one feels their full effects – this can often take up to a month.. Though antidepressants don’t create a general “high” feeling, some people believe that since antidepressants improve mood, larger doses must induce euphoria, which isn’t the case.

Like other drug addictions, antidepressants addiction is dangerous and may increase chances of seizures, dependence, increased tolerance, and overdose. Some signs of antidepressant overdose include:

  • Convulsions
  • Fainting
  • Impaired coordination
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Confusion

Antidepressant abuse also has mild unintended side effects like skin rashes and diarrhea. In contrast, adverse side effects include severe bleeding due to the reduction of serotonin in the platelets from using too many SSRIs.

If you have a pre-existing heart condition, antidepressant addiction may cause adverse side effects, including a change in heart rhythm or sudden cardiac death. Taking antidepressants and other substances increases the levels of either substance in the bloodstream, potentially causing a deadly combination.

Antidepressant addiction side effects also cause sexual issues, including delayed ejaculation, decreased sexual desire, and inability for men to ejaculate. In women, antidepressants delay orgasms or cause difficulty in having one.

Antidepressants Addiction Withdrawal

Abrupt reduction in dosage or complete cessation of antidepressant usage can cause mental and physical effects in the form of withdrawal symptoms. The intensity, risk, and length of the withdrawal period depend on how long one used the drug, along with if the antidepressant was combined with other substances. Let’s look at some antidepressant withdrawal symptoms and risks.

Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms

The following are some antidepressant withdrawal symptoms:
  • Tremors
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Vivid dreaming
  • Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Problems controlling urination
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory issues
  • Depression
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety

Antidepressant Withdrawal Risks

Apart from the above withdrawal symptoms, suddenly stopping antidepressants may worsen one’s depression and other symptoms such as insomnia, pain, or headaches. Antidepressant withdrawal or discontinuation syndrome occurs when someone stops taking antidepressant medication. Withdrawal effects from antidepressants cause a sickly feeling, like having the flu. You may also start having disturbing images or thoughts.

When you stop the medication, you set back your treatment plan, increase your recovery period, or worsen your symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms may also increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and acting on those thoughts.

Antidepressant Addiction

Treatment For Antidepressant Addiction And Abuse

Antidepressant addiction treatment depends on the nature of the addiction and may include many different avenues of treatment.

Antidepressant Addiction Treatment Programs

The rehab process involves assessment, detox, therapy, and aftercare services. In an evaluation, doctors create a treatment plan based on the patient’s unique challenges, the severity of the antidepressant addiction, and the length of antidepressant use. Detox services gradually rid one’s body of toxic substances while avoiding withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification is a difficult recovery phase, and it is best to do it at a medically managed center.

Therapy uncovers and treats the various underlying causes(s) of addiction and offers multiple tools for overcoming the antidepressant addiction. Aftercare services help you transition into other programs that help with the recovery journey after finishing treatment. It involves building on the previous treatment and offering tips to help avoid future relapses.

Types of Antidepressant Addiction Treatment Programs

Treatment occurs in outpatient or inpatient rehabilitation settings that offer behavioral therapies, detox services, and medicated-assisted treatments. Antidepressant addiction treatment programs involve:

  • Residential rehabs: These are intensive treatment facilities that require you to stay at the center until the program ends. They involve a comprehensive and unique wellness environment incorporating regular activities and constant access to doctors.
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHP): These require patients to report to the center for therapy sessions. PHPs are intensive and may involve six to eight hours per session, five days a week.
  • Outpatient programs: These involve counseling, intensive day treatment, and support groups. Support groups offer abstinence support after a treatment program for one or two hours a week, while counseling consists of individual or group therapy and coping strategies. Intensive day treatment programs require patients to return home after their sessions which last for two to four hours, three days a week.

Get Help at Concise Recovery

It can be challenging to admit that you or a loved one need help. Sometimes, all someone needs is a listening ear and professional advice to help them live their best life. Reach out to Concise Recovery today to learn more about antidepressant addiction, the various treatment options, and tips to get you started with your recovery journey.