Learn About the Phases of SSRI Withdrawal
An Overview of SSRIs and SSRI Withdrawal
In depression treatment, SSRIs help regulate levels of free serotonin (the happy chemical) in the brain. SSRI antidepressants can allow individuals to feel better, but stopping their intake may be challenging. The SSRI withdrawal timeline may be unpleasant for most people, especially without proper supervision. Medical experts usually advise people to slowly reduce the intake of antidepressants like SSRIs and advise against abruptly discontinuing their use.
SSRI discontinuation syndrome is another term to describe a sudden stop in SSRI intake for depressive symptoms. SSRI withdrawal occurs in different phases, and many typically experience discontinuation symptoms like nausea, hyperarousal, and imbalance. Keep reading to learn more about antidepressants and the different phases of SSRI withdrawal.
What are SSRIs?
SSRIs help by regulating serotonin levels in the brain, allowing for more balanced neurochemistry, and resulting in a stabilization in mood. Some individuals also combine SSRIs with alcohol for a more intense feeling.
How Long Do SSRIs Take to Work?
In most cases, the effects of SSRIs differ from person to person. However, most individuals begin to observe positive changes after four to six weeks of treatment. In special cases, it takes several months to feel the effects of SSRIs in the body. Note that individuals tend to develop tolerance and dependence, making the relationship between SSRIs and addiction a major concern.
How Do SSRIs Work?
Types of SSRIs and Their Side Effects
Most types of SSRI medications have short half-lives. Some individuals also may choose to combine them with other meds like psilocybin. SSRI and psilocybin drugs may have unintended reactions. However, SSRI and psilocybin only help reduce the latter’s side effects without affecting mood. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the following SSRIs for depression treatment: 2
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR)
- Citalopram (Celexa)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR)
- Vilazodone (Viibryd)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
Possible Side Effects of SSRIs
Because all SSRIs function by acting on the same neurotransmitter mechanism in similar ways it is unsurprising that they have common side effects. However, it’s imperative to note that some people don’t experience any negative effects from SSRIs. Some of the medication’s side effects may last only a few weeks after beginning treatment, while some are more prolonged. 3
Which Side Effects Require a Doctor?
- Weight changes (some also report weight loss after stopping SSRI use)
- Sleep disturbances
- Dry mouth (Xerostomia)
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Lowered libido and sexual issues
SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome
General Somatic Symptoms
How to Spot Discontinuation Symptoms
Nausea typically comes before other gastrointestinal issues develop in SSRI discontinuation syndrome. In extreme cases, sufferers may also experience vomiting. Many times, nausea may cause a reduction in appetite, resulting in weight loss. Unpleasant bowel movements have also been reported.
Most individuals experiencing SSRI withdrawal may feel excessively alert without cause. People often experience other problems with sleep, agitation, irritability. Hyperarousal is common in individuals experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Why SSRI Withdrawal Symptoms Occur
Changes in the Brain
Continuous use of SSRIs causes changes in the brain’s serotonin receptors. Due to these changes, the brain begins to down-regulate the number of receptors it produces due to higher volumes of available serotonin. It is imperative that the brain maintain the right levels of serotonin and serotonin-receptors very carefully to prevent brain cell overstimulation.
Prevention of SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome
Tapering is important for warding off side effects of SSRI discontinuation helping avoid severe SSRI withdrawal symptoms. When tapering off SSRI medications, timing is important. 5 It is commonly advised not to reduce the dose more than once every two weeks to six weeks, depending on the medication’s strength.
Speak to a licensed medical expert for a comprehensive treatment plan for SSRI withdrawal relief. Professional guidelines, clinical experience and training help physicians develop appropriate dosage reduction plans on a case-by-case basis. Individual plans may consider how long a patient has been using that SSRI medication, previously documented symptoms, and the currently prescribed dosage.