Last Updated on by Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley
Antidepressants can be habit-forming and even lead to addictions. Every prescription medication comes with side effects and risks.
Depression comes in many different shapes and sizes. Over time, depression can lead to physical and mental health complications, like heart disease and dementia.
It can be difficult to endure, which is why many people seek professional help for their depression symptoms. A psychiatrist may prescribe certain medications to help ease symptoms of depression.
What Is an Antidepressant?
Mental health professionals use antidepressants to treat patients with depressive disorders. The most common types of depressive disorders include the following:
- major depression
- persistent depressive disorder
- bipolar disorder
- seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- postpartum depression
- premenstrual dysphoric disorder
- atypical depression
These are the most common forms of depression. Each has its own unique characteristics and symptoms.
Mental health professionals may also prescribe antidepressants to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
How Do Antidepressants Work?
Most antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). They work by balancing chemicals in the brain that impact mood.
These medications can help patients feel more positive about their lives.
Mental health professionals often view antidepressants as a safer alternative to benzodiazepines. They often have a lower risk of abuse.
Unlike some other prescription medications, antidepressants don’t produce any immediate psychoactive effects. They can’t get a patient high. They work over time, building up in the brain.
But, that doesn’t mean the risk doesn’t exist.
The Real Risk
The real risk with antidepressants is overdosing. Some patients may feel the medication isn’t working as quicklyas it should.
They may begin increasing their dose against doctor’s orders.
Taking too much of any drug can be dangerous.
Symptoms of antidepressant overdose include the following:
- uncontrollable shaking
- irregular heartbeat
- loss of coordination
Antidepressants and Alcohol
Another potential risk with antidepressants is combining them with other drugs or alcohol. Alcohol is the most common combination with antidepressants.
Combining antidepressants with alcohol can lead to severe health complications. These complications may include:
- loss of coordination
- worsened depression or anxiety
- high blood pressure
Addiction To Antidepressants Is Rare
Addiction to any antidepressant is rare. This is because taking more of the drug doesn’t produce new or different results from taking the prescribed dose.
This makes the potential for addiction low.
Additionally, withdrawal symptoms are minimal if existent at all. When a patient is weaning off antidepressants, they are unlikely to describe their withdrawal symptoms as severe.
If you do stop taking your antidepressant medication, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. You may feel dizzy, anxious, or experience flu-like symptoms.
The symptoms may be uncomfortable, but never confuse withdrawal symptoms with addiction.
Before discontinuing any medication, you should consult your doctor. It’s important you discuss your reasons for stopping the regimen. The doctor can help you decide on the best course of action.
Even with antidepressants, a professional should help guide the weaning process.
They’ll help you determine how you can best reduce your dose over a period of time.
Do Antidepressants Work?
There is some debate over whether antidepressants are necessary in the first place. One study suggestsit may not matter.
The study found the antidepressants in question were as effective at treating depression as the placebo.
What does that mean for antidepressants?
This is a hot topic of debate, and not every mental health professional will agree. Many other studies have found the same results.
At the moment, some might suggest science is experiencing a paradigm shiftin the field of psychology. In the past years, there has been a large change in the way we thinkabout mental health problems.
The problem is no one is quite certain where this shift might take us.
Will antidepressants phase out? Are they here to stay?
No one could reasonablyanswer this question with certainty. Ultimately, the choice to use antidepressants is a decision between the patient and doctor. Each case is different.
Although addiction to antidepressants is rare, it does happen. Addictions often stem from deeper underlying issues. Abuse is the result of combining two or more drugs. Antidepressant abuse often occurs alongside alcohol abuse.
Before you stop taking an antidepressant, consult your mental health professional. They’ll help you determine the best course of action for weaning off the medication.
Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley is the CEO and Founder of Revive Detox, a Joint Commission Accredited and Legit Script Certified Addiction Treatment Center in Los Angeles, CA. She earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University in Los Angeles in 2007 and has extensive experience working in the addiction and recovery field and the LGBT community. To learn more about Dr. Calvert-Conley click here.