Antidepressant Addiction and Withdrawal

Antidepressant Addiction and Withdrawal

Antidepressants are the first-line treatment choice for mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. In fact, the federal government estimates about 1 in 10 Americans over age 12 take antidepressants regularly. They are popular because there is a low risk of developing an antidepressant addiction. But, Zoloft addiction and dependence are two different things.  

Antidepressants are not addictive like alcohol or drugs are addictive. Meaning, individuals do not have cravings like with other substances. Furthermore, antidepressants lack euphoric effects and are less likely to cause addictive behaviors. As a result, individuals rarely experience the negative consequences of substance use disorder or SUD. 

However, individuals can become dependant on antidepressants. In addition, many people are often misdiagnosed with depression. As a result, people who didn’t need the medication are now struggling with antidepressant dependence.

What is the Difference Between Antidepressant Addiction and Dependence?

Addiction is characterized as a change in behavior caused by chemical changes in the brain because of continued substance use. These changes cause drugs or alcohol to become the number one priority in life despite the hurt and trouble it causes. Furthermore, addiction causes people to become unpredictable without the substance of choice. 

The term dependence, however, refers to being physically dependant on the substance. The symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal diagnose dependence. Individuals who take antidepressants regularly build a tolerance to the drug. But, the confusion between addiction and dependence is because both issues cause withdrawal symptoms.

Do Antidepressants Become Addictive?

What Are Antidepressants

Although doctors consider antidepressant addiction unlikely in the traditional sense, individuals can build a tolerance to the drug. This is obvious because of the withdrawal symptoms when individuals reduce or stop the medication. The withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants include nausea, depression, and hand tremors. 

However, most people do not ignore their daily responsibilities to feed their Zoloft addiction. That’s because the reward of the euphoric rush of dopamine is non-existent in antidepressants. But, that doesn’t stop people from misusing them. People often crush and snort antidepressants as a placebo when craving their drug of choice. But, that still doesn’t mean they have a Zoloft addiction. 

What Are Antidepressants?

Antidepressants are prescription medications that treat moderate to severe depression. The two most common antidepressant forms are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).  

SSRIs treat depression by changing the serotonin levels in the brain. As a result, people feel happier and more optimistic about life. While SNRIs interact with norepinephrine and serotonin which also boosts mood. In addition to treating depression, antidepressants also treat an obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. 

Common antidepressants include:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Venlafaxine (Effexor)

How Are Antidepressants Misused?

Antidepressants are possibly the most commonly prescribed medications in America. Because they are safer than benzos, doctors often use SSRIs and SNRIs. And although most doctors believe antidepressants to be low-risk for addiction, many people misuse the medication. 

How Are Antidepressants Misused

Antidepressants do not produce the euphoric effects that other drugs do. In other words, people do not get high from using antidepressants. But, that doesn’t stop individuals from trying. With most drugs, the more you take, the higher you feel, but that’s not how antidepressants work. 

When antidepressants are misused, generally, someone increases their dose without a doctor’s recommendation. At the same time, many people also combine antidepressants with alcohol trying to intensify the effects. But, these behaviors can lead to the medication not working when it’s really needed. 

Do People Commonly Misuse Antidepressants With Other Drugs?

The most commonly misused drug with antidepressants is alcohol. However, doctors and experts both agree that alcohol should be avoided when using these drugs. Furthermore, individuals struggling with alcohol use disorder are more likely to misuse antidepressants.

Combining antidepressants and alcohol can lead to severe physical and mental issues, including:

  • Extreme sedation
  • Dangerously high blood pressure
  • Impaired coordination
  • Worsened depression or anxiety
  • Overdose

Because people struggle to wait for their antidepressants to start working, they may self-medicate with other drugs such as cannabis and opiates. 

What Are the Signs of an Antidepressant Overdose?

Signs of an antidepressant overdose include:

  • Confusion 
  • Impaired coordination
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Convulsions

Is There a Danger of Developing a Zoloft Addiction?

Because Zoloft is considered safe for long-term use, there is no danger in taking it for months or years. Although developing a Zoloft addiction is unlikely, it is a mind-altering drug and can cause dependence. 

The first sign of antidepressant dependence is not being able to get through the day without taking Zoloft. Likewise, symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal are also a sign of dependence. Unfortunately, the symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal force people to keep taking the drug although they don’t need it.

In some cases, individuals doctor-shop for more Zoloft or buy it illegally to prevent withdrawal symptoms. These behaviors, along with the cycle of withdrawal and relapse, are characteristic of antidepressant addiction. But, what is antidepressant withdrawal, and how long do antidepressant withdrawal symptoms last?

How Long Do Antidepressant Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Medical Detox from Antidepressants

Antidepressant withdrawal, or discontinuation syndrome, is pretty common. Nearly20 percent of people who drastically reduce or suddenly stop antidepressants after just one month of use experience withdrawal symptoms. Although different antidepressants have higher rates of withdrawal, they can affect anyone on any type of antidepressant. 

Common antidepressant withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Flu-like symptoms – nausea, headache, dizziness, weakness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Tingling or “pins and needles”
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Muscle spasms
  • Mania
  • Psychosis
  • Mood swings

Withdrawal symptoms are generally mild the first three days. However, symptoms may intensify on the fourth and fifth day before subsiding. Typically, symptoms of antidepressant withdrawal last up to three weeks. But, symptoms could get worse if a person’s depression returns. 

Above all, the answer to how long do antidepressant withdrawal symptoms last can vary. A person’s antidepressant withdrawal symptoms will depend on the type of antidepressant, the dose, the length of time taken, and the person themself. Gradually, reducing antidepressants is often the most comfortable way to quit. 

Is Medical Detox from Antidepressants Important?

Medical detox from antidepressants is the process of the drug leaving the body under medical supervision. Detoxing in this manner can limit antidepressant withdrawal symptoms and ease a person’s discomfort. Generally, detox from antidepressants is a gradual step-down process until they can be stopped safely.

The taper-down process of detox from antidepressants can take from one to two months or longer, depending on the person and their reaction to antidepressant withdrawal. Furthermore, there isn’t an exact science to this process. So, the safest way to detox from antidepressants is under a doctor’s supervision. 

What Treatment Options Are Available for Antidepressant Addiction?

The thought of Zoloft addiction and being dependent on antidepressants leads many people to stop taking them. And it is possible to do it safely under medical supervision. However, individuals with co-occurring disorders such as alcohol use disorder or bipolar disorder may need a rigorous treatment plan. 

Inpatient Treatment for Antidepressant Addiction

Inpatient treatment facilities provide a safe environment free from the stress of daily life. Members in treatment are also under 24-hour supervision. This environment allows members to focus on their recovery without the risk of relapse. 

Inpatient programs generally last 28 days. However, some members require longer inpatient antidepressant addiction treatment. Members have a structured routine that includes counseling, support groups, group therapy, mealtimes, and other activities. 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies for Zoloft Addiction

Individual therapy is the cornerstone to treating substance use disorders such as Zoloft addiction. Struggling with antidepressant addiction can lead to negative thoughts about life and feeling unloved. Individuals may also feel guilty and shameful, which can lead to thoughts of self-harm. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps identify negative thought processes. In CBT, members learn to recognize these negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. This allows members to focus on their future and their recovery. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Antidepressant Addiction

Dialectical behavior therapy or DBT is also widely used in treating antidepressant addiction. DBT gives members the skills to cope with emotions and push for change. It also teaches interpersonal skills such as helping others, rational thinking skills, and the power of relaxation. 

There are a variety of stressors in life that lead to misusing drugs and alcohol. Everyday stressors include work issues, relationship troubles, and financial difficulties. However, turning to drugs or alcohol makes the problems worse. 

In DBT, members learn healthier ways to handle the stress. For example, talking with a friend or therapist, participating in sports, and calmly working through the problem. But, the greatest benefit of DBT is learning to build healthy relationships. 

Let Sana Lake Help You Today!

If you or a loved one is struggling with an antidepressant addiction, we can help. We help members detox from antidepressants which leads to more manageable antidepressant withdrawal symptoms. What are you waiting for? We are here to answer all your questions, from how long do antidepressant withdrawal symptoms last to could I have a Zoloft addiction. Contact us today and get started on a better life. 

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4140701/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/antidepressant-withdrawal/faq-20058133