Drug and Alcohol

Antidepressant Addiction: Are Antidepressants Addictive?

Are Antidepressants Addictive?

Antidepressant addiction isn't common, but it's possible. Learn what factors can drive addiction to antidepressant drugs in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

March 11, 2023

Antidepressant drugs are a class of drugs given to patients struggling with mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, chronic pain, major depressive episodes, and even addiction. You must be surprised to think that the medication given to treat addiction can possibly become a cause of addiction. 

Alcohol and drug addiction, also known by the diagnostic term substance use disorder (SUD), is now considered a chronic health condition. Drug addiction was earlier equated with gambling and looked down upon as a moral failure. Instead of seeing it as a health condition, addiction was thought to be a character flaw.

Drug addiction is a complex health condition because it varies from one person to another and is based on the type of drug substance. Among the various categories and classifications of narcotic substances, prescription medication has a dangerous potential of being abused and addicted.

Fortunately, with changes in time, scientific studies, and growing cases, the perception of addiction has completely changed. Now, people can share their grievances and get proper treatment. With time, determination, and hard work, one can achieve the desire to live a happy, drug-free life.

By the Numbers:

Nearly 16 million Americans over 12 have abused prescription medication in a year. Among that, nearly 2 million Americans are addicted to them.

Mental health plays a very crucial role in addiction and abuse. There are many cases where because of depression, trauma, anxiety, and other personality issues, a person starts self-medicating to cope. On the other hand, there are also times when someone has experienced mental health disorders related to substance abuse.

Misconceptions surround drug addiction; one such point is to think that only physical health is affected by it. It is entirely false, as addiction affects both mental and physical health. Behavioral and psychological issues are one of the main side effects of abusing drugs.

The chief danger of antidepressant drug use and abuse isn't addiction. It's the unpredictable interactions these classes of prescriptions have with other drugs.

What Are Antidepressants?

For most of us, life is fairly stressful. Life becomes even more challenging when someone is struggling with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. After recognizing the problem, many seek the help of medical practitioners. They are then prescribed antidepressants to deal with their conditions.

Antidepressants are medications that work by altering the mood of the user. It changes the serotonin level in the brain and produces a feel-good effect. Some scientists and doctors say serotonin levels regulate the mood and happiness of an individual. 

These drugs work by correcting the chemical imbalance in the brain and can alter mood and even behavior. These medicines help relieve symptoms related to anxiety disorders like social anxiety, OCD, and depression. Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are the drug class approved for treating such conditions.

Antidepressants are not exactly a cure for all these mental illnesses somewhat, but it decreases their adverse effects. Changing the mood and giving them a mental boost makes people feel better and live a more functional life. The downside to these drugs is that even though it is beneficial for people who are going through the tough time of struggling with a mental health disorder, there is a possibility that they have become accustomed to it. In this struggle, they might take more and more antidepressants and develop an addiction. If someone takes antidepressants for a long time or more than prescribed, they can easily fall prey to their abuse and addiction.

Even though they were first developed in the 1950s, antidepressants are currently being used in a greater number nowadays. While talking about its popularity in the United States of America, antidepressants are some of the most commonly found and prescribed medications. In fact, in the fifteen years between 1999 to 2014, the usage of antidepressant medication has increased by almost 65%.

Some Common Types of Antidepressants Found

  • Serotonin And Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors(SNRIs): SNRIs are given to patients struggling with various mood disorders and are even prescribed to ADHD patients. Like many other drugs, SNRIs also work by increasing the release of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and serotonin levels in the brain. It balances out the chemicals to alter the mood of the user. SNRIs can also reduce the negative effects of menopause, fibromyalgia, and other chronic neuropathic pain. 

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): As mentioned above, SSRIs are approved for treating depression conditions. It works by blocking serotonin reuptake and keeping it within the synapse. Our brain must have a clear pathway to send pain or pleasure signals. So, by blocking the reuptake, it balances and studies the mood. This leads to better communication of various signs and messages in the body. 

  • Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs): TCAs, like other antidepressants, are used to treat the symptoms of depression and fibromyalgia. Like the above medications, TCAs increase neurotransmitters, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels. In turn, it blocks another neurotransmitter's action, acetylcholine. 

  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs are a somewhat dangerous type of antidepressant as they can cause high blood pressure. So, only after trying out other drugs is this one prescribed. So, we have a monoamine oxidase enzyme that helps remove norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. MAOIs stop this from happening, leading to changes in cells and circuits of the brain. 

  • Noradrenaline And Specific Serotoninergic Antidepressants (NaSSAs): NaSSAs is an antidepressant that increases the concentration of neurotransmitters. It also blocks the negative effect and feedback and enhances serotonin neurotransmission. In short, it stabilizes the mood and decreases the negative symptoms of depression. 

Are Antidepressants Addictive?

Remember that antidepressant addiction is not the same as heroin or alcohol addiction. How? Antidepressants are not addictive in the traditional sense as the users do not precisely experience the euphoria and ecstasy they feel while hooked to other narcotic drugs.

But this does not mean that antidepressant abuse is nonexistent. One can easily get physically dependent on them. Psychological dependence also plays an equally important role. It can create a placebo effect as people may try to abuse the antidepressants in place of any other hard drugs.

Others want to amplify the effect and combine antidepressants with alcohol. This can be very dangerous and result in severe side effects, including seizures and overdose. The same may be true for combining cannabis with antidepressants. It's worth noting addiction often occurs along with mental disorders. This is known as a dual diagnosis.

There are also cases where some may think that the medication is not working fast enough. Because of that, people take more than what was prescribed to them. All these reasons mentioned above for antidepressant abuse and addiction ultimately lead to the development of tolerance for the drug.

In such circumstances, a person has to take higher doses of the medication to achieve the same effect of stabilizing the mood. When our body creates tolerance and gets accustomed to eth drugs, you would need more dosage to achieve the desired effect. 

Ways of Abusing Antidepressant Medications:

  • Taking more doses is one of the biggest ways of abusing any medication. Whether the need is for mood improvement or for immediate effect, both come under abuse.

  • If a person continues to take the medication prescribed to them by the doctor, they are abusing the drug.

  • Obtaining medication from an illegal source is another sign of abuse.

  • Using someone else's medication is also considered abuse. You cannot consume antidepressants that were meant for someone else. It can even have dire effects. 

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Some Antidepressant Addiction Symptoms

Some various signs and symptoms are associated with the long-term use of antidepressants. These early warning signs are both behavioral and physical. 

Common Signs of Antidepressant Abuse:

  • The user will experience that they can no longer produce the same effect as before. As the body starts to become accustomed to the dose, the impact of the medication will lose its intensity.

  • A person will become physically dependent on the antidepressants as they will feel a constant need to take their dose of medication, and if they don't, withdrawal effects will set in.

  • Just like a person becomes immersed in the addiction, an antidepressant addict will become more irresponsible and unable to concentrate on any of their tasks. 

  • There is a possibility that someone starts to show risky behavior and constantly finds themselves in a high-risk position. 

Common symptoms of antidepressant abuse:

  • Sexual Problems

  • Talkativeness

  • Tremors

  • Insomnia

  • Panic Attacks

  • Withdrawal effects like nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headaches, balance problems, tiredness, etc

Common Antidepressant Addiction Side Effects

If someone becomes addicted to antidepressants, they might experience various health side effects. These effects can be mild to severe, based on the intensity and type of antidepressant abuse. Following are some common side effects that one should be aware of. 

Common side effects of antidepressant abuse:

  • Mood swings

  • Memory problems

  • Hallucinations

  • Liver damage

  • Irregular heart rhythm

  • Salt imbalance

  • Coma

  • Cardiac arrest

  • Seizures

  • Convulsions

Common overdose signs of antidepressant abuse:

  • Convulsions

  • Blurred vision

  • Drowsiness

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Seizures

  • Confusion

  • Poor coordination

  • Dizziness and fainting

  • Breathing problems

  • Shaking or tremors

  • High blood pressure

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Do you have more questions about antidepressant addiction? Reach out.

Antidepressant Addiction Treatment & Recovery

If you or someone you know are struggling with antidepressant abuse or addiction, seeking help from a drug rehab center is the best step forwards. Considering all health and addiction needs, drug rehab will provide them with adequate treatment and comprehensive recovery programs. Many drug rehabs are equipped with dual diagnosis treatment, where they also treat the patient's mental health problems alongside addiction treatment. The patients undergo three main procedures:

It is vital to understand that without the help of s drug detox center, it's very hard to treat addiction. So, your first step towards recovery is seeking help from a drug rehab facility. 

Get Help With Antidepressant Addiction Now at The Edge Treatment Center

It can be surprisingly easy to get addicted to antidepressants. If you find yourself mixing them with other drugs, or taking too many of them, it's time to talk to The Edge Treatment Center. With a specialization in treating cases of dual diagnosis, you'll be able to build a life where addictive drugs aren't necessary to live a happy life.

Reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today.

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We’re Here to Help You Find Your Way

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.