Learn About Antidepressant Addiction and Treatment
Antidepressants are any drugs designed and prescribed to treat a wide range of mood and anxiety disorders. This primarily implicates major depressive disorder but also can mean obsessive-compulsive disorder or eating disorders.
Antidepressant drugs are broken up into multiple classes, which generally denote how they affect the chemistry of the brain. Because there are so many types of antidepressants, the potential for addiction and dependency can vary wildly from one medication to the next.
Being that these drugs are used to treat mental disorders, taking an antidepressant puts the patient at an increased risk of developing a co-occurring substance use disorder. Furthermore, data strongly suggests that antidepressant addiction is a widespread issue.
Antidepressant Medication Statistics
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, just under 80 percent of antidepressant prescriptions are written by a medical professional who is not a psychiatrist. Of those prescriptions written by non-mental health experts, many do not include a specific psychiatric diagnosis. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study from 2011 found that less than a third of patients taking an antidepressant had visited a psychiatrist in the past year.
These numbers suggest that there are many opportunities for patients to obtain and abuse antidepressant drugs, simultaneously increasing their risk of developing an addiction. Learning more about the most common types of antidepressants as well as their side effects can help patients make smarter, safer decisions about antidepressants.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs are among the most widely prescribed antidepressant drugs and are typically used to treat depression, eating disorders and anxiety. Though scientists are not completely certain of the mechanism behind SSRIs, they believe that these drugs are able to elevate the user’s mood by increasing the volume of serotonin present in the brain.
Repeatedly flooding the brain with serotonin via an SSRI, however, can lead to many of the same dependency issues associated with illegal drug use. The more the brain gets used to depending on the drug to feel better, the less the brain can do to positively affect its own mood.
The following medications are among the most commonly prescribed (and abused) SSRI antidepressants:
Serotonin and Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Like SSRIs, SNRIs are used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. SNRIs are also used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain.
SNRIs are akin to SSRIs in that they affect the user’s mood by controlling the reuptake of serotonin, resulting in a greater volume of serotonin present in the brain. However, SNRIs also limit the reuptake of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which is also related to the management of mood.
SNRIs were developed later than SSRIs, and some contend that SNRIs are more effective and carry less severe side effects compared to their serotonin-focused counterparts.
Widely prescribed SNRIs include:
Norepinephrine and Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitors (NDRIs)
Used to treat narcolepsy and Parkinson’s disease in addition to depression and ADHD, NDRIs are very similar to SNRIs in that they have a dual mechanism of action. However, instead of managing the volume of serotonin and noradrenaline present in the brain, NDRIs instead influence the presence of dopamine and norepinephrine.
In most cases, NDRIs are prescribed to supplement traditional antidepressants when SSRIs and SNRIs are not as effective as expected. Additionally, despite being an antidepressant, NDRIs have demonstrated side effects that are similar to those of stimulants.
The following medications are a few of the most commonly prescribed NDRIs:
Antidepressant Addiction and Treatment
Antidepressants are not naturally addictive. However, their powerful, mood-altering effects, combined with the fact they are prescribed to treat mental illness, meaning that users must take caution to use these drugs appropriately.
Patients will eventually develop a tolerance to their prescription antidepressants, and that tolerance can eventually escalate to dependence and eventually substance use disorder.
According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), patients who exhibit two or more of the following symptoms may be dealing with addiction to antidepressants:
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (cardiac arrhythmia, suicidal thoughts, nausea, panic attacks, tremors, etc.)
- Ignoring friends and family in favor of taking antidepressants
- Inability to focus on work or school because of antidepressants
- Deterioration of personal relationships
- Taking larger doses than the prescription calls for
- Continued use regardless of major consequences
Multifaceted Treatment Required
Treating antidepressant addiction is tough, especially when the user is also grappling with mental illness. It can take the combined efforts of an experienced physician and certified psychiatrist to guide the patient toward sobriety.
At The Treatment Center by The Recovery Village, our diverse staff of medical professionals are prepared to help patients manage any number of co-occurring mental illnesses. You can reach our admissions counselors 24/7 at (866) 295-6003 if you have additional questions about receiving treatment for antidepressant addiction.