Quitting antidepressants is hard. Fortunately, there is hope, and you can recover. Every single day, people struggling with depression seek assistance for antidepressant addiction. With the support, willingness, and the right evidence-based treatment, the condition in question can be managed so that you can become a productive resident of Orange County again. However, the recovery journey is unique to every patient. Therefore, the initial step of getting assistance on the recovery road is finding a renowned rehabilitation center like Just One Recovery.

Are Antidepressants Addictive?

One of the most common questions asked is whether antidepressants are addictive. The answer is no. However, since this is a concern among many patients, it is worth spending some time discussing this in detail.

Antidepressants are not addictive in the same manner as alcohol or drugs like heroin and marijuana. Persons abusing antidepressants do not experience craving, euphoria, or exhibit addictive behaviors that come with other drugs.

However, you can develop physical dependence. Normally, dependence form in persons who did not require the antidepressants in the first place. For instance, a person who was wrongly diagnosed with depression and prescribed an antidepressant.

Maybe the concern around antidepressant addiction is that patients confuse antidepressants with addictive tranquilizers. While popular tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines are sometimes prescribed to depression patients who are agitated and require something to calm them, they aren't antidepressants and don't treat depression.

What are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are medications that alleviate symptoms of social anxiety disorder, depression, anxiety conditions, mild chronic depression, seasonal affective disorder, and dysthymia. Typically, they correct the neurotransmitters' chemical imbalance in the human brain. Neurotransmitters are responsible for behavior and mood changes.

First established in the 1950s, antidepressants have become increasingly popular in the past two decades. According to a report released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of persons above twelve years of age using antidepressants in the U.S rose from 7.7% in 1999 to 2002 to 12.5% from 2011 to 2014. Also, the number of females taking antidepressants is double the number of men.

What are the Various Types of Antidepressants?

There are five main categories of antidepressants, namely:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors

SSRIs and SNRI are the most commonly prescribed category of antidepressants.

SNRIs are designed to treat mood disorders, major depression, fibromyalgia, chronic neuropathic pain, relieve menopausal symptoms, anxiety conditions, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They raise norepinephrine and serotonin levels (these are neurotransmitters in your brain that stabilize mood). Perfect examples are:

  • Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

SSRIs, on the other hand, are commonly used to treat depression compared to other antidepressants. They have fewer side effects. Also, they block the absorption or reuptake of serotonin in your brain. Consequently, making it easier for your brain cells to send and receive messages hence more stable and better moods.

SSRIs are known as selective since they affect only serotonin.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

Tricyclic antidepressants are called so because they have three (3) rings in their chemical structure. TCAs are designed to treat various categories of anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, and manage chronic pain.

Examples of TCAs include desipramine (Norpramin), imipramine (Tofranil), trimipramine (Surmontil), protriptyline (Vivactil), and amitriptyline (Elavil).

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Monoamine oxidase inhibitors were commonly used before SNRIs and SSRIs were introduced. Currently, it is used when other antidepressants have failed to function; it interacts with food and other medications.

As the name suggests, it inhibits monoamine oxidase action. Monoamine oxidase is a brain enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters like serotonin.

Once serotonin is broken down, there is more circulation of serotonin. As a result, you experience less anxiety and stabilized moods.

Noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NASSAs)

NASSAs are meant to treat depression, personality disorders, and anxiety disorders. They include Mirtazapine (Zispin, Remeron, Avanza) and Mianserin (Tolvon).

Side Effects of Antidepressants

Just like all medications, antidepressants have unwanted effects that are called side effects. While some side effects are mild, others are severe. Additionally, they become less severe or may go away with time.

If you are experiencing any side effects, it is not wise to stop the medication without consulting your physician. This is because withdrawal symptoms may happen should you stop the antidepressant abruptly. Your doctor should be able to develop coping strategies or prescribe another antidepressant that has more tolerable or fewer side effects.

Common side effects include insomnia, constipation, feeling numb, anxiety, dry mouth, blurred vision, dizziness, weight gain, and fatigue. While the above side effects do not cause excessive concern, there are more serious side effects that should know. They include:

Serotonin Syndrome

Serotonin syndrome is related to taking SSRIs and SNRIs. It happens when serotonin (a neurochemical in your brain) reaches hazardously high levels. Generally, it is triggered when the antidepressant is used together with another medication that affects serotonin levels the same way the antidepressant does.

Symptoms of this side effect include agitation, confusion, diarrhea, shivering, and muscle twitching, high fever, irregular heartbeat, unconsciousness, and seizures. You need to seek immediate medical attention if you start exhibiting any of these symptoms. Serotonin syndrome can be fatal.

Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia can be defined as a condition where salt or sodium levels are below the normal levels. When this takes place, a lot of fluids build up in the body's cells. Hyponatremia is common with SSRIs since the antidepressant affects the hormone that regulates fluid and sodium levels in the body.

Mild hyponatremia can lead to a headache, feeling ill, loss of appetite, confusion, and muscle pain. In severe cases, you will experience fatigue, agitation, seizures, psychosis, and disorientation. It could also result in coma or even death.

Suicidal Thoughts

You need to know that when you start taking your antidepressant, your depression may worsen for some time and have increased suicidal thoughts.

It is imperative to get medical care immediately if your loved one is experiencing increased suicidal thoughts or unusual behavior changes in the first week after starting the new medication.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions with antidepressants occur either because you are allergic to:

  • The antidepressant's active ingredients, or
  • Fillers and dyes found in the capsule or pill.

Common symptoms of allergic reactions include an itchy rash, challenges while breathing, hives, blisters, and swelling. You need to seek medical care if your face is swollen or experience breathing difficulty.

Seizures

Another severe side effect of an antidepressant is a seizure. Sometimes a seizure is caused by a patient who has never experienced a seizure before. Modern antidepressants are less likely to cause this side effect.

Its symptoms include uncontrollable jerking of the legs and arms, confusion, staring spells, unconsciousness, and abnormal sensations.

All seizures instances must be reported to a physician. Additional, emergency services should be summoned if it's the first time you are experiencing a seizure.

You should call 911 when the following happens:

  • The seizure lasts more than 5 minutes
  • Another seizure starts immediately after
  • The patient fails to wake up
  • The patient is injured, has diabetes, or is expectant
  • The seizure takes place in water

Mania

Antidepressants can cause mania episodes if you are prone to bipolar disorder. Although mania is not life-threatening, it requires medical attention. Its symptoms include:

  • Grandiose thinking
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased energy and activity
  • Irritability
  • Pressured speech
  • Extreme mood elevation

What is the Difference Between Antidepressant Dependence and Addiction?

Dependence or addiction? These two terms are different. When it comes to something as serious as an addiction, it is essential to get the meaning right.

Addiction is a substance use condition that is characterized by symptoms that stems from continuous consumption of the substance regardless of experiencing adverse effects. The criteria could include:

  • Desiring to quit but not in a position to
  • Urge to use or cravings
  • Giving up enriching or essential activities because of the drug
  • Spending a reasonable amount of effort and time on getting the drug.

Dependence, on the other hand, refers to what takes place whenever you stop using it. In other words, the withdrawal symptoms you experience. You are physically dependent on an antidepressant if you suffer chronic pain, experience withdrawal symptoms when you have not taken the medication. At the same time, not misuse the antidepressant.

To be classified as an addiction, a tolerance to the substance should be established, resulting in drug-seeking behavior. Well, this is not the case with antidepressants.

Withdrawal Symptoms

An antidepressant is both literally and figuratively lifesaver as far as treating depression is concerned. However, there will come a time when you will feel better and want to live without them. If this describes you, you need to consult your physician first.  Antidepressants cause withdrawal symptoms to patients who regularly take the antidepressant for more than a month and:

  • There is a significant change in the amount of drug consumed, or
  • The patient has abruptly stopped taking the medication completely.

Although these symptoms are not life-threatening, they are uncomfortable. The doctor will create a schedule for you to taper off the medication gradually.

Usually, antidepressant discontinuation syndrome symptoms are mild. They begin after two (2) to four (4) days and can last for a couple of weeks. Common symptoms experienced include:

  • Insomnia that comes with vivid dreams or nightmares
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle spasms
  • Hypertension
  • Feeling like you suddenly want to urinate
  • Challenges with balance like feeling lightheaded, vertigo, and dizziness
  • Flu symptoms like sweating, fatigue, headache, feeling sluggish, and achiness
  • Irritability, aggression, mania, agitation, and anxiety
  • Sensory issues such as feeling like you are shocked, burning, and tingling

Relapse VS. Discontinuation

In some patients, discontinuation symptoms feel like anxiety or depression is coming back. Stopping your antidepressants can increase the risk of relapse. As a result, it is essential to understand the difference between relapse and discontinuation syndrome.

The main difference between the two is that discontinuation syndrome symptoms begin after a few days after you stop taking antidepressants. Relapse, on the other hand, takes longer to happen, and its symptoms develop gradually.

Another key difference is that discontinuation syndrome involves physical symptoms that are not related to anxiety or depression. Usually, the withdrawal symptoms go away after a couple of weeks. However, when you have a relapse of anxiety or depression, symptoms do not go away and could even become worse.

Moreover, if you resume antidepressant, withdrawal symptoms will resolve immediately, while anxiety or depression will take time to respond.

Practical Tips on How to Cope with Withdrawal Symptoms

Probably the most effective method to manage withdrawal symptoms is preventing it by either ensuring you do not stop or adjusting your dosage after discussing it with a mental health expert.

Discussed below are more methods to cope with the withdrawal symptoms:

Ask Yourself Why You Are Quitting

This is an important question, particularly if you require more treatment throughout the withdrawal or afterward. Are you feeling better? Do you dislike the antidepressant's side effects? Are you not in a position to purchase the antidepressant? All these are the reasons which have consequences to your withdrawal experience.

Taper Off Slowly

While you thought this section would discuss how you will taper off on your own, you should talk to your doctor before you stop taking antidepressants.

It is also paramount to determine if you have realized your goal, which is to get total relief of depression and get back to normal functioning. This question is essential because people in full remission have reduced chances of experiencing future depression episodes, and if they do, the depression will take longer to develop.

Your doctor should use their expertise and knowledge to assist you in choosing the best tapering off-plan. There is no standard tapering schedule. The schedule will change depending on how your body responds. Your physician will recommend how gradually or rapidly you wean off the medication based on:

  • Your dosage
  • The kind of antidepressant you are consuming
  • The duration of taking the antidepressant
  • Antidepressant's half-life

Notably, your tapering off schedule is also likely to change depending on your withdrawal symptoms. In this case, your doctor will advise you on whether to wean off more slowly or quickly.

A medication's half-life is the amount of time at which half of the drug leaves your body, and the other half remains. This time varies with different medications.

What to Do if You Are Still Experiencing Withdrawal Symptoms while Tapering Off

Even when gradually tapering off, you are likely to experience discontinuation syndrome. Your doctor could recommend your resume the medication and then wean off more gradually.

Alternatively, the doctor may choose to administer drugs that relieve individual symptoms like using motion sickness medication like Bonine (meclizine) for dizziness.

Explore Alternatives

There are various types of antidepressants that work in the human brain differently, have diverse side effects, as well as withdrawal symptoms. If you dislike how your antidepressant makes you feel, it's likely that you were misdiagnosed or that the symptoms will respond positively to another medication.

Antidepressants responses vary with every patient. Therefore, it is essential to discuss with your doctor how the prescribed medication is upsetting you.

Be Active by Exercising

Start exercising when you stop taking your antidepressants. It can be difficult; depression can sap the desire to exercise. Luckily, it is possible, and it will make you feel better. All you need is to start slowly, small, and having reasonable expectations. For instance, commit to a twenty-minute walk twice a week. Ensure it is social and engage a walking buddy who will keep you accountable.

If you've been exercising, don't stop. Increase it. Regular exercise boosts mood by releasing endorphins hence offering you a way to relieve stress. Endorphins also assist in keeping depression at bay as you wean off and eventually stop taking the antidepressant.

Warnings

Although occasionally, it is worth noting that individuals have experienced severe reactions after discontinuing antidepressants. These reactions can be terrifying but are treatable. They include:

  • Psychosis- It is the disconnection from reality especially involving hallucinations and delusions
  • Delirium- Unexpected disorientation in place and time, agitation, challenges with memory, restlessness, and confusion.
  • Suicidal feelings- It is imperative to seek assistance immediately should you have suicidal feelings after you stop taking your depressants.

Busting Common Myths and Misconceptions

Together with psychotherapy, antidepressants are the best medication for depression. The condition of most patients treated with antidepressants recovers the first time they try. And should the first medication fail to work, often the second medication will. However, most patients who could have benefited from the medication have never tried. Usually, this is because they have fears about antidepressants.

Discussed below are common myths about antidepressants and facts that will help you choose the right antidepressant:

An antidepressant will Make You Forget Your Troubles Instead of Handling Them

An antidepressant will not make you forget challenges. Instead, it will make it easy for you to handle the problems. Depression distorts the perception of challenges and saps the energy to handle the challenging issue.

Antidepressants can Change One's Personality

When properly taken, antidepressants do not change personality. Instead, they will assist you in going back to your previous functioning level. Patients occasionally experience loss of emotions or apathy after taking the medication. When this occurs, you need to switch to another antidepressant or lower your dosage.

It is worth noting that antidepressants will not improve your functioning or mood if you take them while you are not depressed. It isn't a happy pill.

Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain

Like all medications, an antidepressant has side effects, and one of them is weight gain. While some medications may lead to weight gain, others may cause weight loss. If this is an issue, consult your physician.

If You Start Taking Antidepressants, You Will be Required to Take Them for a Lifetime

Patients who use an antidepressant for a first depression episode should take the medication continuously for 6 to 9 months, not a lifetime. After your depression is managed, you need to work with a doctor to determine when you should stop the medication.

Antidepressants Affect Sex Life

Usually, the main issue is having an orgasm instead of a lack of desire. Depression reduces libido, and medication that treats depression should boost your sex life. However, certain antidepressants are likely to lead to sexual challenges.

Antidepressants are High-end and not Covered by Insurance

Usually, antidepressants are covered by insurance policies together with prescription drug insurance. The cost varies depending on:

  • The drug you are taking
  • The dosage
  • Whether it's available as a generic

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How Will You Know if Your Antidepressants are Working?

You will sleep better. You will be in a position to perform your daily duties. Appetite will go back to normal. You'll have more energy and an enhanced desire to interact with other people. Your loved ones will notice the changes. However, you need to be patient. It can take time to be how you were before the condition.

  1. How Long Will You Take Your Antidepressants?

Usually, antidepressants are taken daily. It could take a month to notice the results of the medication. You could try different dosages to find the right antidepressant for you.

Your physician should tell you the duration you should take the medication. If it is the first time you are receiving depression medication, you will be required to take your antidepressants for six months. If depression recurs, you will take antidepressants for more than a year.

  1. Can You Consume Alcohol While on Antidepressants?

You need to be cautious about consuming alcohol until you are sure how the antidepressant affects you. The effects of antidepressants combined with alcohol's effect can result in life-threatening issues. Regular drinking can also make it hard to treat depression. Moreover, certain antidepressants can result in seizures of heavy drinkers.

  1. Is the Medication in Question Safe for Teens and Children?

Sometimes the use of antidepressants has been associated with an increase in both suicidal behavior and suicidal thoughts in young adults, teens, and children. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration requires all antidepressants to have a warning about the risk of suicide in persons below 24 years. Nonetheless, that does not mean that individuals in the age group in question shouldn't take antidepressants. Instead, it means that their loved ones and doctors should carefully monitor them when they take their medication.

Find Rehabilitation Help Near Me

Quitting antidepressants is hard on its own. Recovery requires being away from distractions.  Moreover, it is essential for you to feel supported right from the onset of your recovery journey. At Just One Recovery, we are committed to providing a supportive healing environment that raises the standards of addiction and depression treatment in Orange County. To achieve this, we match each patient with a personalized treatment strategy and therapy team. For more information, contact us at 714-538-8085.