Are antidepressants addictive? What there is to know

Doctors do not consider antidepressants to be addictive. However, people may experience negative side effects when they stop taking them.

Antidepressants can reduce symptoms of depression. Some have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to treat social phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

However, antidepressants don’t cause addiction. However, if people take them long enough, the body may get used to them and experience withdrawal when they stop. People can often experience negative symptoms when they stop taking them, especially if they do so abruptly. It’s similar to physical dependence, but it’s different from addiction.

Learn more about whether antidepressants can be addictive, how they work, and whether people who use drugs should take them.

According to National Institute of Mental Healthantidepressants are not addictive.

However, if a person suddenly stops taking the antidepressants they have been prescribed, they may experience adverse effects. According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), up to 80% of people who stop taking them abruptly or reduce their dose too quickly experience a withdrawal syndrome or withdrawal symptoms. These usually develop a few days after stopping the drug and may persist for weeks.

NAMI breaks down withdrawal withdrawal syndrome symptoms into several categories:

  • mood-related symptomssuch as restlessness, moodiness, aggression, panic attacks, mood swings, and anxiety
  • somatic symptoms, such as unexplained fatigue or sweating, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, and headache
  • sleep-related symptoms, such as insomnia, excessive nightmares, and daydreaming
  • digestive symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea

Other symptoms associated with withdrawal syndrome and withdrawal include:

  • sensations that feel like jolts or flashes of electricity in the body or brain
  • cognitive problems
  • hallucinations
  • muscle tension or pain
  • tremors
  • eyesight problems
  • itching
  • ringing in the ears
  • taste changes
  • itching

To avoid these effects, the American Psychological Association recommends that people gradually reduce their dose of antidepressants over several weeks. They must also do so under the guidance and supervision of a physician.

There is also evidence that individuals seem to develop a progressive tolerance to antidepressants. This means that the same dose of a certain medicine may become less effective over time, so a person may need to increase their dose or change medicine.

Antidepressants work by acting on neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that carry information between neurons or brain cells.

Depending on the type of antidepressant, these drugs increase the release or block the reuptake of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, or in some cases a mixture of all three.

Learn more about how different types of antidepressants work.

Many people suffer from depression and substance abuse simultaneously, such as 32% of people with major depressive disorder also have substance abuse disorders. People are likely to have the best results if they receive treatment for both conditions at the same time.

A stallion 2019there looked at the best treatment options for people with both depression and substance abuse disorders. She concluded that antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), were the recommended first-line treatment.

The study authors also recommended forms of psychotherapy in conjunction with antidepressants.

A 2021 review agreed with this multi-faceted treatment approach. The authors said there was evidence that a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy might be helpful in treating people with depression and alcohol use disorder (AUD). This means that a doctor can prescribe SSRIs to treat depression while also treating AUD.

These results mean that if a person has both conditions, their treatment will be more effective if they receive treatments for it simultaneously – likely with a combination of medication and therapy.

Antidepressants can interact with other medications, such as migraine medications, anti-inflammatories, and some asthma medications.

Taking antidepressants with other psychotropic drugs may cause negative interactions. For example, drugs that affect serotonin levels can interact with other drugs that also affect this chemical. For example, migraine medication or other antidepressants do, increasing the risk of serotonin syndrome, which can lead to serious complications.

Some antidepressants can also interact negatively with other medications, as:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • certain asthma medications, such as theophylline
  • drugs for psychosis and schizophrenia, such as clozapine and pimozide
  • bipolar disorder and drugs for severe depression, such as lithium

Some antidepressants may also not be safe for people with certain medical conditions or other demographic factors. as:

  • heart disease
  • seizure disorders
  • types of glaucoma
  • liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • bipolar mania
  • bleeding disorders
  • benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • be under 18

People taking antidepressants should also avoid consuming alcohol, as it is a central nervous system depressant and can make symptoms worse depression and cause excessive drowsiness and dizziness. Additionally, those taking antidepressants should avoid using cannabis and illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, ketamine, and amphetamines.

Additionally, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, a class of antidepressants, can cause serious interactions with certain foods, as:

  • deli
  • Sauerkraut
  • aged cheeses
  • fermented soy products, such as tofu, soy sauce, miso
  • wine
  • Beer

Like all medicines, antidepressants can cause side effects, and around 50% people who take them will experience it. However, these usually appear within the first few weeks of taking them and diminish over time.

Side effects of taking antidepressants include:

Less common but more serious side effects associated with taking antidepressants include:

  • heart problems
  • seizures
  • liver damage
  • suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Take antidepressants can also drive people to develop antidepressant-associated or antidepressant-induced mania or hypomania. These conditions occur in people who suffer from or have a predisposition to disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression.

According to a 2020 study, about 14% of people with bipolar disorder who take antidepressants experience antidepressant-associated mania a few days after taking the medication.

A doctor should monitor people who start taking antidepressants, and people should see a doctor as soon as possible if they develop signs of mania, such as:

  • insomnia
  • difficulty listening to others or following conversations
  • speech under pressure, or talking excessively
  • be very impulsivemaking rash decisions or taking unusual risks
  • extreme irritability
  • excessive or unnecessary spending
  • reduced personal care
  • difficulty concentrating
  • hypersensitivity to external stimuli
  • extreme self-confidence

Antidepressant drugs are not addictive, but the body gets used to them with prolonged use. If a person stops taking them suddenly, they may experience withdrawal symptoms or antidepressant discontinuation syndrome.

In most cases, doctors recommend antidepressants for people with both depression and substance use disorders.

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