Signs of Antidepressant Addiction

Antidepressant Medications and Addiction

What is Antidepressant Medication?

To understand what antidepressant medications are, it is important to understand what depression is. Depression is a mental illness that affects an individual’s mood. It can cause feelings of deep sadness and bring experiences of fatigue, hopelessness, worry, or fear. Antidepressant addiction can happen when the drug is taken over long periods of time, and can also pose an issue.

In the immediate context, it is important to understand why antidepressant medication is an appealing option to combat clinical depression. Depression affects an individual’s everyday life. Their mind is affected, influencing suicidal thoughts, a poor appetite – overeating or not wanting to eat at all – and a changing sleeping schedule. This illness is a problem within the brain.

What is Antidepressant Medication

Antidepressant medications are utilized to help treat depression. They work in the brain and slowly change brain chemistry to properly release the needed neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are natural chemicals found in the brain, necessary for balancing and maintaining proper function.

Antidepressant medication takes about 4-8 weeks to take effect.  Although this medication is mainly used to treat depression, it can also be used to treat other mental illnesses such as a substance use disorder, severe depression, mood disorders, or a generalized anxiety disorder.

How Do Antidepressant Medications Work?

Antidepressants work by focusing on the function of neurotransmitters within the brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for the well being of an individual. This medication can assist with the proper function of neurotransmitters.

Antidepressants are used to treat conditions such as major depressive disorder, substance use disorders, or chronic neuropathic pain, allowing for struggling individuals to be able to continue to manage their conditions and difficult circumstances.

There are many different types of medications with each working differently. This difference allows for a larger variety of prescribed antidepressants to be available. Each antidepressant works with different neurotransmitters within the brain.

The neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine are a few of the core neurotransmitters affected by antidepressants. These neurotransmitters are mainly responsible for the feelings of well-being and energy within the body.

How Do Antidepressant Medications Work

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs adjust the brain’s chemistry by stopping serotonin from being broken down and reabsorbed into the body. SSRIs are specific serotonergic antidepressants that help maintain higher levels of serotonin in these individuals.

Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that is responsible for everyday functions such as regulating mood and bodily functions. Limited or lowered levels of serotonin are said to be a result of depression.

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

This antidepressant works similarly to SSRIs however, norepinephrine is affected as well. SNRIs are serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors that work to either slow down or entirely stop the reabsorption of serotonin and norepinephrine into the brain.

Norepinephrine, also known as noradrenaline, is another important neurotransmitter. It is responsible for providing the body with energy as well as the flight or fight response in the body. This neurotransmitter also helps manage blood pressure within the body.

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Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

Opposed to the other two antidepressants, MAOIs inhibit an enzyme that breaks down serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. This allows for the neurotransmitters to be rebuilt in simpler ways.

This form of medication was one of the first medications and is now used less often due to its effects within the body and collaboration with other drugs. It is still used when other treatments, like SSRIs and SNRIs, do not best suit an individual for treatment.

Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs)

TCAs also inhibit the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine within the brain. It helps provide the body with higher levels of these two neurotransmitters. Despite TCAs help in supporting these functions, it also blocks and stops other necessary processes within the brain.

This blockage is what leads to the negative side effects. This antidepressant can cause an individual using TCAs to experience effects like constipation, dizziness, or confusion.

Atypical Antidepressants

Atypical medications are presently still relatively new and are also different from the other classifications that exist for antidepressant medications. Some specific examples of atypical antidepressants include:

  • Bupropion – Blocks or slows the reabsorption of dopamine and norepinephrine.
  • Agomelatine – Activates melatonin and also promotes dopamine and norepinephrine release.
  • Mirtazapine – Promotes norepinephrine in multiple parts of the brain.

Antidepressant Side Effects

Antidepressant Side Effects

Everyone has a different body and will process the medication differently. Individuals taking antidepressants may not experience side effects but introducing this new medicine into the body can cause unwanted side effects to arise.

The varying types of antidepressants can all come with their own specific side effects. The common side effects shared among most antidepressants include:

  • Weight gain
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepiness
  • Sexual problems or a lack of sex drive
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness


These symptoms are usually mild however, there have been situations of more severe side effects. It’s important to speak to your provider regarding issues you may have with this medication. Stopping medication quickly can leave you with unwanted withdrawals.

Why are Antidepressants Used to Treat Addiction?

Antidepressants Used to Treat Addiction

The battle of addiction is both a physical and mental battle. The physical dependence for proper function when managing withdrawals on its own is a difficult fight. The mental withdrawals are just as, if not more, debilitating.

An individual struggling with addiction must face the lowered state of their own body, moving with impaired control. They must also juggle their feelings of depression, anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, and drug cravings. These are only some of the many difficulties an individual faces.

There are many conditions and circumstances that can lead to addiction such as environmental factors or traumas. As a poor means to cope and deal with difficult situations, drugs become the solution that generates more difficulties. Individuals with a substance use disorder are at higher risk for addiction.

As many drug addictions are caused and maintained due to the brain’s reward center activation, antidepressants help provide a more stable maintenance level of neurotransmitters. Antidepressants help give back the body’s natural ways of functioning that drug use took.

Drugs can force the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. This forced synthesis decreases the balance in the brain and their effects decline once the drug has been processed and worn off.

Rather than forcing the production of neurotransmitters, antidepressants block or slow the brain from repurposing the much-needed neurotransmitters. In this blockage, the brain slowly rises to healthier levels of serotonin.

Overcoming the mental struggle of addiction can induce unwanted symptoms and mental conditions. This medication supports individuals struggling with addiction recovery through individuals that experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Changing moods
  • Substance cravings
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Are Antidepressants Addictive?

Antidepressants are not specifically addictive but they can be abused. Antidepressants change the chemical makeup of an individual’s brain chemistry and bodily functions. This means that an individual using antidepressant medications can build a physical dependency upon them.

Addiction vs Dependence vs Tolerance

A physical dependence upon antidepressants does not mean an individual is addicted. There is a difference between addiction and dependence. With an addiction, substance use cannot be controlled despite how harmful the consequences may be.

These behaviors are typically seen in very self-destructive and secretive manners. Individuals struggling with addiction are often unable to properly act with reason and good judgment. Dependence upon a drug means the body cannot work as it needs to work without it.

Diabetic individuals are dependent upon insulin to survive. They are not addicted to insulin however, to survive, they must rely on it. With antidepressants, the body begins to change and adjust to best fit and work together with the medication.

After constant use, the body can no longer work properly on its own. This physical dependence can bring a tolerance that builds from constant use. A tolerance is built when effects from the same dosage decline and require an increased prescription.

Although dependence and tolerance can be seen within an addiction, taking antidepressants does not mean an individual has an addiction to antidepressants. This may seem negative but it is important to keep in mind, that an individual’s mental conditions should slowly improve.

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What Does an Antidepressant Addiction Look Like?

Individuals who abuse antidepressants are the individuals with antidepressant addiction. This can come from prescribed antidepressants or other antidepressant medications. Substance abuse disorders make recovery difficult for a struggling individual.

Antidepressant addiction looks similar to any other drug addiction. Addiction is uncontrollable drug abuse even when the consequences are negative. This substance abuse becomes more difficult to control as the reward center of the brain is continuously altered.

Again, dependence and tolerance do not mean an individual is addicted to antidepressants. It is important to understand the difference so as to best support the individual receiving their treatment.

The difficulty of identifying an addiction comes with overlapping symptoms and is best to consult a certified addiction professional for a proper diagnosis. An addiction can be seen through behaviors and feelings such as:

  • Secretive or keeping to one’s self
  • Harmful actions
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Rapid changes in energy

Can Someone Overdose On Antidepressants?

Overdose On Antidepressants

Yes, someone can overdose on antidepressants. When an individual takes too much of the drug or more than the doctor prescribed amount, they can overdose. Individuals that are using antidepressants are likely to build a tolerance and may desire a stronger effect.

It is important to consult with the individual’s treatment providers before adjusting the proper dosage. Taking more than is prescribed without consulting with the provider is a form of substance abuse and can be the start of addictive behaviors.

Individuals who abuse antidepressants are typically abusing other substances alongside it. There are many dangers and adverse side effects to mixing drugs no matter the purpose. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use, please call us today.

Antidepressant overdose symptoms usually occur through the combination of many separate drugs and alcohol alongside antidepressant medication. This mixing of substances can lead to poisoning and harming the body in many dangerous ways.

Overdosing on antidepressants can be mild, including symptoms like:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Fluctuating heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting


Or hold more severe, life-threatening consequences like:

  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Inability to stay conscious


It is of the utmost importance to not mix any substances without consulting your treatment provider so as to best eliminate any risks.

Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms

Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms

Antidepressant medications change the processes within the body to better help an individual. Whether due to wanting to function without antidepressant drugs or being out of a prescription, abrupt discontinuation of the drug can bring on negative symptoms.

Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome

Discontinuation syndrome is the arising withdrawals that come after quickly stopping the antidepressants. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Feelings of vertigo
  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Zaps or pin prick sensations throughout the body and brain
  • Elevated anxiety
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Antidepressants, as well as many other foods, drugs, and chemicals, stay within the body for an extended amount of time after consumption. Once stopping use, the body is still slowly trying to process and remove the remnants of antidepressants.

These symptoms arise quickly after around three days of not consuming the drug. These symptoms can last for weeks, typically ending around six weeks, as the body is adjusting to the new changes.

Antidepressant medications usually take around 4-8 weeks to be fully integrated and work properly within the body. If an individual is still within the early stages of the medication, it is unlikely for them to experience severe discontinuation syndrome or withdrawal symptoms.

The length of time antidepressant medications are used determines the severity of withdrawal symptoms an individual may experience. Antidepressant use over an extended period puts an individual more at risk of discontinuation syndrome.

When stopping the medication, it is important for an individual to speak with their medical provider before making any changes in their prescription. Suddenly stopping a prescribed medication can be life-threatening.

Many of the feelings and experiences that began with the use of medication may resurface when stopping. To avoid facing those experiences as well as the unwanted discontinuation syndrome, it is best to consult a doctor to slowly decrease the dose and allow the individual’s mind and body to adjust.

Antidepressants and Addiction Recovery

Antidepressants Treatment Plan

Antidepressants are used to help treat and manage a number of medical issues such as mental health issues, chronic pain, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. They assist well however, individuals may wish to stop using antidepressants.

This form of medication may seem unpleasant or too problem-filled to help manage issues an individual faces. Other medications often do not offer the help needed for the individual and some are stuck with an unwanted option for help.

Thankfully, there are other forms of treatments available for an individual to undergo that may better fit their needs. Treatment centers can offer behavioral therapies that can help individuals who have struggled with issues such as low self-esteem, social anxiety, trauma, or stress.

When stopping antidepressants, working with an individual’s treatment provider is a necessity to slowly remove antidepressants from the body and allow the body to function on its own.

Treatment centers specialize in providing proper assistance and support to many struggling individuals. They help by providing a community for others to better grow and reach a more satisfying life.

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Finding Rehab and Addiction Help

Working together with wellness professionals is in your best interest when struggling with addiction. Here at Find Addiction Rehabs, we offer confidential help in regard to addiction treatment and help.

Whether finding a treatment center in your location or connecting you with recovery tools and resources, our hotline is available 24/7 to make sure you can get the help you need, anytime you need it.

We hope this article has helped with understanding some of the struggles many individuals experience. If you or a loved one are struggling, Find Addiction Rehabs can help you find the proper treatment that works for you!

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