Antidepressants are used by roughly one in nine Americans in the U.S., according to recent data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Most antidepressants aren’t as addictive as opioids and benzodiazepines, but long-term use of these drugs has been linked to higher rates of physical dependence and addiction. Fortunately, antidepressant addiction treatments are available to help you overcome dependence, and lower your risk for an antidepressant overdose death.
Here’s what you need to know about the risks surrounding antidepressant drug abuse, and what you can do to safely overcome your addiction.
What Causes Antidepressant Addiction and Abuse?
Antidepressant drug abuse occurs when you use your medications in ways other than directed by your doctor. Taking extra doses to experience euphoria or altering your medications by crushing and snorting tablets are common ways antidepressants are sometimes abused. Most cases of antidepressant drug abuse stem from increased tolerance and physical dependence.
Regular, long-term use of antidepressants can cause your body to become tolerant to the drugs — meaning you may need higher doses to achieve effects. Increasing your doses may lead to physical dependence, which is when your body experiences a set of withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuation. Physical dependence can then lead to antidepressant addiction, and cause serious problems that affect your health, relationships, career, and overall livelihood.
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The Most Commonly Abused Drugs that lead to Antidepressant Addiction
An estimated 54 million Americans over the age of 12 have used prescription medications like antidepressants for non-medical reasons at least once in their lifetime, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse. But antidepressant addiction statistics reveal that roughly seven percent of emergency department visits are caused by non-medical use of antidepressants.
Antidepressants most commonly used to treat depression include tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and selective serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SSNRIs). Of these groups, the most addictive antidepressant medications fall into the TCA group. Studies show that TCAs may carry a higher risk for dependence, and are linked to higher rates of overdose fatalities than other types of antidepressants.
Common signs of antidepressant drug abuse:
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
- Lying and secretive behavior
- Diminished performance at work or school
- Financial difficulties
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Drug cravings
- Withdrawal symptoms when abruptly quitting antidepressants
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Do Antidepressants Permanently Alter Brain Chemistry?
Antidepressants work to treat depression by correcting chemical imbalances of brain neurotransmitters responsible for controlling your mood and behavior. For instance, SNRIs can increase your brain’s production of serotonin and norepinephrine to improve your mood. But just like any other drug or substance, long-term repeated use of antidepressants can increase your risk for tolerance, physical dependence, and psychological addiction.
In the past, antidepressants were usually only prescribed to treat depression for six months. But newer evidence suggests that antidepressant therapy should continue for nine months or longer to prevent symptoms of depression from returning. Some researchers even suggest that most depression patients should be staying on antidepressants for life to prevent recurrence of symptoms. However, long-term use of antidepressants may cause lasting changes to the brain that result in dependence.
What is Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome?
Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome is a term used to describe a set of withdrawal symptoms that occur after abruptly going off antidepressants. Symptoms usually peak during the first week after discontinuing antidepressants, and gradually fade over the following days and weeks. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome can happen when people run out of their medications, quit antidepressants cold turkey, or drastically reduce their regular dosage.
Common symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of coordination
- Vivid dreams
If you plan on quitting antidepressants or overcoming dependence, one of the safest ways to avoid antidepressant discontinuation syndrome is to work with your doctor to reduce your doses gradually over time. This discontinuation method is known as tapering, and is commonly offered at many drug detox centers that treat prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug detox can help minimize the severity of your withdrawal symptoms, and help you experience a full recovery from antidepressant dependence.
How to Avoid an Antidepressant Overdose Death
Antidepressant overdose deaths are extremely rare, but can happen to anyone who takes high doses or combines their medication with alcohol and other substances. How many antidepressants does it take to overdose? Studies reveal that TCAs are involved in the highest number of overdoses due to their higher toxicity levels and ability to slow down respiration.
If you or your loved one is struggling with antidepressant dependence, understand there are nearby addiction treatment centers that can help you achieve improved health and an addiction-free lifestyle. Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 877-959-7271 to speak with a representative, and let Find Addiction Rehabs provide you with resources that can guide you safely through recovery.
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