Antidepressants as addictive

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There is no evidence that antidepressants are habit-forming. However, some people may develop significant side effects when they quit using them.

These medications may help alleviate the symptoms of depression. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some for the treatment of social phobia, PTSD, panic disorder, and OCD.

Antidepressants as addictive
Antidepressants as addictive

Addiction is not a problem with antidepressants. It is possible for the body to develop acclimation to the medication and suffer withdrawal symptoms when the user stops using it. When people abruptly stop taking drugs, they are more likely to develop unfavorable reactions. However, this is not a form of addiction, but rather a form of physical dependency.

In this article, you’ll learn if antidepressants are addictive, how they function, and if they should be taken by persons with drug abuse issues.

Antidepressants, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health, are not habit-forming.

A person’s prescribed antidepressants may have unpleasant side effects if they suddenly cease taking them. About 80% of patients who abruptly stop taking them or cut their dosage too rapidly develop discontinuation syndrome or withdrawal symptoms, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). When you stop using the drug, these symptoms usually appear within a few days, although they can last for a couple of weeks.

Discontinuation syndrome

Discontinuation syndrome is broken down into a number of categories by NAMI.

  • Agitation
  • Low mood
  • Anger
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Anxiety physical symptoms, like inexplicable exhaustion or sweating, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, and headaches.
  • Sleep-related symptoms include sleeplessness and persistent nightmares, as well as symptoms of nausea and vomiting and stomach cramping.

Other symptoms

Withdrawal and discontinuation syndrome is associated with several other symptoms, including:

  • Sensations that feel like jolts or zaps of electricity in the body or brain
  • Cognitive problems
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Tremors
  • Vision problems
  • Itchiness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Taste changes
  • Itchiness

A gradual reduction in antidepressant drug dosage is recommended by the American Psychological Association to avoid these side effects. Additionally, they must do it under the direction and supervision of a physician.

Antidepressants appear to have a tendency to build up a tolerance over time. People may need to raise their dosage or switch medications if they are taking the same dose for an extended period of time without success.

What do they do?

Drugs like antidepressants affect the chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters (chemical messengers between brain cells).

Some antidepressants stimulate or prevent the reabsorption of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, or dopamine, while others combine these effects.

Substance abuse and the use of antidepressants

Around 32% of people with severe depressive illness also suffer from substance abuse disorders, thus it’s not uncommon for these two conditions to coexist. If both illnesses are treated at the same time, patients are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes.

Depression and substance abuse are often co-occurring diseases, according to a new study published in 2019. Selected Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) were found to be the best first-line treatment for depression.

As an additional treatment option, antidepressants were suggested by the research team.

An evaluation in 2021 supported this complex treatment strategy. A combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy could be beneficial in treating persons with depression and alcohol use problems (AUD). SSRIs can be used to treat both depression and AUD at the same time.

If a person is suffering from both diseases, their treatment will be most beneficial if they receive treatment for both simultaneously likely with medication and therapy.

Drugs Interaction

A number of different medications, such as migraine medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, and several asthma medications, can interact with antidepressants.

When taking antidepressants with other psychiatric medicines, undesirable interactions can occur. Serotonin drugs, for example, can interact with other medications that likewise alter serotonin levels and vice versa. Migraine drugs and antidepressants, for example, can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome, which can cause major consequences.

Some antidepressants can also interact with other drugs, such as:

  • NSAIDs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.
  • Psychotic and Schizophrenia medicine (clozapine and pimozide) bipolar disorder and severe depression medication (lithium) certain treatments for asthma (theophylline)

Additionally, some antidepressants are not safe for people with certain medical conditions, such as:

  • A heart attack or seizure disorder
  • Eye diseases caused by liver illnesses kinds as glaucoma
  • Diabetes type 1 or type 2 renal disease
  • Bipolar mania and bleeding disorders
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
  • Being under the age of 18 years old while pregnant and breastfeeding

Drinking alcohol while taking antidepressants can increase symptoms of depression and induce dizziness and excessive sleepiness, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. Aside from that, those on antidepressant medications should abstain from using marijuana and other illegal drugs including cocaine, heroin, ketamine, and amphetamines, which are all addictive.

In addition, antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), can have significant interactions with certain foods, such as:

  • Smoked and cured beef products
  • Fermented cabbage and ripened cheeses
  • Miso wine and other fermented soy products
  • Beer

Risk Factors

Antidepressants, like any other prescription, can have side effects, and about half of those who use them will experience them. However, they are most common in the initial few weeks of using the medication and gradually diminish over time.

Antidepressants can have side effects such as:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and unsteadiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Restlessness
  • Sexual problems
  • Problems sleeping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Vision problems
  • Trouble urinating
  • Drowsiness
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Increased sweating
  • Sudden decreases in blood pressure when transitioning from sitting to standing
  • Increase in or new anxiety or depression
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks

Some less common, but more serious, side effects of antidepressant use include:

  • Seizures
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Suicide-related ideas or actions

Mania or hypomania can be caused by antidepressant-associated or antidepressant-induced mania or hypomania in persons who are taking antidepressants. A tendency to have mood disorders like bipolar disorder or depression puts someone at risk for developing these symptoms.

Around 14% of bipolar illness patients who take antidepressants suffer antidepressant-associated mania within a few days of beginning the drugs, according to a study from 2020.

Mania symptoms, such as the following, should be reported as soon as possible to a physician by anyone on antidepressants:

individuals should seek medical attention as soon as possible if signs they develop signs of mania, such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Trouble listening to others or following conversations
  • Pressured speech, or talking excessively
  • Being very impulsive, making reckless decisions, or taking unusual risks
  • Extreme irritability
  • Excessive or unnecessary spending
  • Reduced self-care
  • Trouble focusing
  • Hypersensitivity to external stimuli
  • Extreme self-confidence


When taking antidepressants for a long period of time, the body adapts to the medication. Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome can occur if a person abruptly stops taking them.

Depression and substance abuse disorders are frequently treated with antidepressants, which is why they are commonly prescribed by doctors.



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